Full Film: Man Spends 30 Years Regenerating Farmland into Amazing Forest | Fools & Dreamers

Full Film: Man Spends 30 Years Regenerating Farmland into Amazing Forest | Fools & Dreamers

(gentle piano music) – [Hugh] I think they basically thought we were naive greenies from the city. I’m sure they thought
that we had come here with all these ideas
and within a year or two we’d find it was all just too hard, and it wasn’t happening,
and we’d go again. Here we are, 31 years later, and it’s interesting
because I don’t think there’s a single farmer around us who, might not be completely
believing in what we’re doing, but I don’t think there’s a single farmer who’s not backing Hinewai now. (calm music) (peaceful music) I think it was in about October 1987 we wrote an article
for the local newspaper, which is called the Akaroa Mail. I just thought we’d let the community know what we were doing here. It was interesting because
we wrote this article and a few weeks later we
got this amazing response from one of the farmers. I can read you that
article, if you’d like. It was a much longer article than this, but I said in the
article, “My secret dream “is that one day a whole catchment, “from summit crest to sea, from
snow tussock to nikau palm, “from Celmisia to mamaku tree
fern and yellow-eyed penguins, “could be set aside for Nature to reassert her original covering.” That’s what I said in the article. And this was the response
from one of the farmers – again, I’m only reading
the last two paragraphs. This is a farmer who
lived in the next valley on a gorse-infested farm, which he’d been trying
to fight all his life. And he said, “I am all for
saving patches of bush, “but the thought of starting from scratch “on land that is clear enough “to be used productively
frankly appalls me. “As for shutting up a whole valley, “heaven help us from fools and dreamers!” I love that. I regard that as a great compliment, cause we need a few more fools and dreamers in the world, I think. (peaceful music) So, here we are on Hinewai Reserve. We’re in the southeast
corner of Banks Peninsula, which is on the east
coast of the South Island, jutting out into the Pacific. The amazing thing about
New Zealand, I think, is how recently people got here: across the Tasman Sea, 60,000 years ago when the aboriginal
people reached Australia, but only about 800 years ago until amazing Polynesian voyagers finally hit the biggest
landmass in Polynesia and settled here. The first named group we
know of is called Waitaha. Another wave of settlement
came called Ngati Mamoe from the North Island. And in about 1700, the
Ngai Tahu or Kai Tahu came southwards from
the North Island again. Then, of course, Pakeha came – Pakeha, the European settlers – from the other side of the planet, they arrived here. All these waves of human settlement had a huge impact ecologically,
as you can imagine. At the beginning, Banks
Peninsula was forested from side to side and from top to bottom in ancient old-growth forest. Both Maori and European settlement had a huge impact on the forest. So by 1900, less than 1% of the
old-growth forest was left. (calm music) So, Hinewai Reserve, it’s a result of the Maurice White Native Forest Trust. We look after 1,500 hectares. That’s quite a big area,
several catchments. The whole idea was to make it possible for nature to speed up the
regeneration of the native forest and restore the native biodiversity
as much as is possible, cause we’ve lost some things altogether. Conservation was our first goal, to restore the biodiversity on which we’re all completely dependent. We sometimes forget that. Some people say, “Well, why
are you restoring the forest?” In a way, saying, “Why are you doing it?” is like saying, “Why should
you love your mother?” That’s the sort of parallel. We’re totally, totally
dependent on vegetation and the wildlife it
supports for our own lives. We wouldn’t be here if
it wasn’t for plants and vegetation and animals
and birds and so on. Wait until you can see it
coming down from the seacoast, coming from the south. – Okay. – And there’s lookouts here and here. So, our prime goal is conversation, but from the very
beginning we decided that people would be able to come here freely and whenever they wanted without asking, could just come and walk our tracks. And there’s many, many
kilometres of walking tracks now. So it’s really like a
little mini national park right on the doorstep
of Akaroa itself. So, there’s two centres of
settlement, if you like. The house we’re in now is
my post-earthquake house. Previously, I lived in an older house, just about 100 metres
away across to the east, and that was somewhat damaged
in the big earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. Andrew, who’s been a trustee, came to work here with
us several years ago, and he lives during the week
in my old earthquake-damaged house and goes home to his
wife, Susanne, in the weekends. And then Otanerito Homestead, Paul and Tricia live down there and it’s about one hour’s walk away. (distant conversation) – And there’s a few of them
but I can’t work out how many. (river flowing)
(birds chirping) – This is Hinewai Stream,
the first crossing. This is permanent flow here, even in the driest of drought years we’ve never lost our flow
in the largest streams. And it’s amazing when you think of it, because a lot of people
think of Banks Peninsula as being sort of an
open, dry, grassy place, but this is really what
Banks Peninsula is and was. And the water is a very
prominent part of it. (river flowing) We just keep finding new
waterfalls as we explore more. This is one of the first ones we found. It’s right on the main track,
so everybody sees it – we put a little one
-minute track off to it. It’s called Fuchsia Falls. (water flowing) It’s only one of about 47 waterfalls across the whole of Hinewai that we’ve found so far and named. (calming music) (birds chirping) Four. – You can’t meet Hugh
and not just like him. Hugh’s the boss and he’s the day-to-day
manager of the reserve. He gets up everyday, he
has the same routine, and he goes to work. And work is hard. We don’t use vehicles to get to work, so the work site might
be two hour’s walk away. And so, two hours after walking to work, you start work and you work all day and then you walk home for two hours. And when he gets home, he’ll have his bath and have his dinner and from
about 7 o’clock or 7:30, he’s ready for his evening, and so he sits at his table
and he starts working. And he does all the paperwork
involved with Hinewai. He writes letters, he writes submissions, he writes and he writes and he writes. Then, the next day, he gets
up and off he goes again. He’s amazing. It’s his life, it’s his dream. (birds chirping) (piano music) – I better stop there,
it gets too difficult. (laughs) Ha. (mysterious music) From a very, very early age I was walking on Banks Peninsula. I remember getting very
interested in bird life and I thought, I’ll grow
Banks Peninsula plants in the back garden of our family home. And I just got fascinated
by the way plants grew. Just everything about plants just completely caught my fancy. It was interesting at university because I had decided
from the very beginning to do both arts and science. And it was botany I went
on with really. So for several years I’d been tramping on a regular, systematic grid pattern of sampling across Banks Peninsula doing in much greater detail than had ever been done before a detailed, botanical look at the peninsula. And as I was doing this, I was thinking, “Gosh, I thought it
had been completely trashed “but there’s so much still here. “A lot of it coming back.” So all this made me think that I’d love to look after a bit of this
land and let this all happen. And amazingly I was
introduced to this guy called Maurice White. And he’d set up a fund to purchase land for conservation purposes
on Banks Peninsula. He said, “Would you be
interested in being involved?” and I think I waited
about half a nano second and said “Yes!” (laughs) We started looking for land, and I kept my eyes sharp open. And on this particular bit of land, which was the original part
of Hinewai – 109 hectares – I said to Maurice, “Look, this is ideal, “it’s a reasonable size, “but not huge. “It’s got old-growth
forest on it so we can see “what the end result would be
of a regeneration program. “And it’s basically uneconomic marginal hill country, “which really shouldn’t
really be farmed at all.” September 1987 we bought that land. Four years later, it became hugely bigger because we had the opportunity
to buy Otanerito Station, which was right next to us. And it made it 10 times bigger. (branches and leaves crunching) The local community
was a bit suspicious about what we were doing, I have to say. – All the farmers in the area
thought he was a total nutter. – When I first heard of the fact that Hugh and the Trust were going to
use gorse to help regenerate the natives, I was a skeptic of it. – They went, “No he’s
gonna let gorse grow! “You can’t let gorse grow!” I come from a rural background. Gorse is a weed. You get rid of gorse. You burn it. You poison it. You bulldoze it. But you get rid of gorse. – Gorse is a terrible, terrible
weed for pastoral farming. It’s shocking. And no one, let alone me, would deny that. But it’s also, almost nothing is black and white, is it? If you’ve got it and it’s
sort of infested the landscape, irretrievably in a way, it’s worth looking at its good points and saying, well maybe we
don’t have to fight it. On this marginal hill country, fighting it usually makes it worse, because that’s what gorse thrives on. So we said, No we’re gonna
just leave the gorse alone on this gorse-infested pasture. We don’t want pasture, we want native forest to
regenerate and gorse is a wonderful nurse canopy for
native forest regeneration. It’s an opportunistic plant; it takes advantage of cleared
ground and forest climates. But it can’t stand shade. It has to have full sunlight. So as soon as it’s shaded, it’s dead. So it grows quite fast in the full light. But then other things come
in underneath it, naturally. Shade-tolerant hardwood trees, for example. And they just thrive
under the gorse shelter. The gorse is a nitrogen fixer
so it’s actually fertilising the soil all the time with nitrates. A very important nutrient for plant life. This is old man gorse
here, with a few natives, often it’s thicker than this sometimes it’s thinner than this. But eventually, all these
natives come up under here. The one that’s
probably the most abundant one of all is Mahoe or Whiteywood, which we can see here. It thrives under the shade
but once it gets its head up it loves the sun as well. So as soon as the head’s
up above into the light, it’s shading the gorse and the gorse dies. As all these lower parts
of the gorse is all dead because it’s shaded. – I initially thought that the progression from gorse to native
trees would take 50 years. But in 10 years, you could see it. You could see them coming
up through the gorse in areas that I didn’t realise that there’d be natives growing. (calm music) – And of course you’re
not getting pasture back. But you’re getting native forest back, with all its benefits. Increased benefits now
with carbon sequestration, as well as all the ecological
and biodiversity values that are being fostered this way. Our whole philosophy is what I call minimal interference management. People have an inflated
opinion of what homo sapiens is capable of. I hate to say this because
I’m a homo sapiens as well. (laughs) But we’re really good at damaging things, we’re not all that good at
putting things right. But all the serious work
of natural regeneration of native forest and wildlife
has been done by nature. People say to us, “Oh, you’re planting all this forest back?” And it’s a sensible sounding question, but really if we were
planting this forest back, we’d never do it – on
1,500 hectares of land? Of wild, hilly, rough terrain. We’d never do it. Nature’s planting the forest back, in totally ecologically appropriate and scientifically interesting ways. (calm music) There’s millions of hectares
of productive farmland in New Zealand, on good soils that are on easy terrain. But then there’s also, let’s say millions of hectares also in marginal hill country
that are not actually that productive, but with
our farming ethic we sort of think, It’s cleared
of forest, we should keep farming it and producing food. And of course we need to produce food, we all have to eat. So we’re all dependent on
the farms producing food. Perhaps we could be a bit more sensible, maybe eat a little bit
less meat and make it more efficient and
environmentally friendly. But my idea, even New Zealand wide, and particularly with
the possibility of income now from this land as
carbon sequestration. You stop trying to farm that land. You don’t even plant exotic forest on it – for timber maybe but certainly not for carbon sequestration;
that’s just replacing one ridiculous folly with
another ridiculous folly. The scene is wide open
for taking this marginal gorse-infested hill country
and letting it just do what Hinewai’s doing on
a much grander scale, and regenerate into
native forest on its own. We don’t have to plant this stuff. Nature’s doing it. All we’ve got to do is take
away the deleterious things that are stopping it happening fast. As well as sequestering carbon, you get all the other benefits. You get the huge biodiversity on which we’re totally dependent as well. And we also share the world
with all the other species that have evolved as well. That’s a crucial thing
we tend to forget about. (birds chirping) (men talking) It’s gotta be reasonably deep
’cause we don’t want it to… Higher. Right here. – Where do you want it? – In the middle. (hammering sounds) (calm music) – Everything’s done very slow here. People walk. Paul and I will use a vehicle but Hugh doesn’t use a vehicle. He’ll cycle or he’ll walk. So he doesn’t believe we
should be using fossil fuels, and instead of saying, “Don’t use fossil fuels”, he just rides his bike. And he’ll use public transport. – I’m a technological person like anyone in the modern world. I have a house, with electricity. My hot water is heated by the sun, by solar panels on the roof. But I don’t have photovoltaic cells to create electricity here. We’re on a national grid here, so that’s quite a big technological thing. I have a landline telephone. I don’t have a cell phone. It would be pointless anyway because we’re out of cell phone
range here, thank goodness. Thank heavens. (laughs) I’m not against all this technology; I’m not anti it. But I don’t want it. I’m very happy with the level
of technology I have here. (wood cutting) I do see, unfortunately,
that with uncritical acceptance of a lot of this technology, we’re losing a lot of our old skills, and artistic and creative satisfaction. I really do feel that quite strongly. So I’m not in a sort of mood to just roll with the tide and
take on all this technology, which I think is unnecessary for me, and actually not all that
good for the community, to be honest. It has wonderful advantages as well. And some of the things
that technology produces, I’d be the first to praise. I mean, the bicycle, for example, I regard as the peak of
transport technology. And it’s technology and I love it. (calm music) And I love my work here. I meet innumerable people here. I’m not a hermit. – Papa. – Papa? I do interact with the
rest of humanity for sure. (laughs) And love it. My roots are here. I get immense satisfaction from
seeing what is happening here. (calm music) Fire has always been our
biggest fear, I’d say. In 2011 we had a major
lightning strike here. So that morning was terrible. We actually saw the
thunderstorm come over. It was almost a rainless
thunderstorm in July. It was the driest winter
we’ve ever recorded. So the conditions were like summer-like conditions here. And in this electrical storm come over, we saw the lightning
strike come down and it hit Full Moon Bluff across
here, on the high ridge. And it just exploded into flame. We had an immediate response, it was I think seven helicopters, and the helicopters could
barely fly that first day because of the wind. So it largely just kept burning. The firefighters said, “Look,
we just don’t know what “it’s going to do overnight”. So I packed up what I could. It was one of the worst
moments of my life. And I was evacuated to Akaroa. Jumped on my bike and rode to Akaroa. In the morning, I woke
up there and looked up and the whole of Taraterehu
Stony Bay Peak was just ringed with fire. And by that time, the wind had died down. And then the helicopters could fly. And they took monsoon
bucket, after monsoon bucket out of putakitaki pond. But the interesting thing was every time it was burning fast through gorse, every time it hit a bush edge, a regenerated native bush edge, or even beech forest, older growth forest, it just went out. So there was almost no
native bush destroyed. Huge areas of gorse with
natives coming through but was still largely gorse, that was burning hot and fast. So it burnt, I think, for 27 hours. But it was very emotional for me. I came back the next morning to my house. Found it still here. The fire was out. But the whole landscape in front of me was just blackened. It was just a complete nightmare. (laughs) Yeah. I can still feel that emotion just almost leaping on me like a panther. (calm music) (peaceful music) – I think that the
community now by and large is absolutely in support of Hinewai. We realised that the way farming was done over the years had to be changed. And I think from what
Hugh has done has helped people realise that it
can be done in a good way. – I think it’s a really
interesting time to be involved in conservation. There’s this great ground
swell now of people who are closing off whole
gullies because it’s uneconomical land so they’re
letting the bush grow back. And they’re fencing it off
so that nature can be there. So that we can have these corridors. And so that the birds can
move and the insects can move and things can get from
the summit to the sea and over the hills to the next one. – Forestry alone won’t save
us from global warming, because a lot of the
sequestered carbon is locked up in fossil fuels. But even covering every inch of dry land in the world with forest
wouldn’t sequester enough if we keep on burning the fossil fuels that have been sequestered
for millions of years. So forests are definitely
part of the solution but not the whole part. We have to change the way
we use energy as well. In a big way – we have to do it very quickly or we’re really stuffed. No one person can solve
these massive problems, so all you can do and
all the universe can expect of you is to do your best. Your best can be all
sorts of different scales. We’re doing our best here
in terms of human life and the ecology and
biodiversity and climate and other species sharing
the planet with us. All those things. – Plant for the birds, plant for the bees. Throw a few flowers in your garden. It doesn’t have to be as big as Hinewai. – So if people can look at Hinewai and say, “Gosh, this is
succeeding in lovely ways. “I’ll do something in my own
little corner of the world “that draws some sort of
inspiration from there” – I’d be delighted. But that has never been our intention. Our intention was just
to do the right thing in this corner of the world. But if that’s repeated over
and over and over again well the possibilities are immense. The problems are immense, but the solutions are immense too. (upbeat peaceful music)

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  1. Love your work. Have thought about buying land just to protect it and restore it's biodiversity! Just need to save!

  2. The donor of funds for this a critical part of this. Mother nature will repair itself if given room to do so. Great message here. Thanks

  3. Gorse flower tea is an antidepressant and antigrief drink, that immediately increases visual acuity. The flowers could also be made into essential oil, and for making gorse honey.

  4. Nature is planting the forest back in totally ecological appropriate and scientifically interesting ways. -Hugh Wilson @17:30
    Brilliant quote.

  5. The single most peaceful thing I have ever listened to here. I am defending five acres I bought in the mountains of Appalachia. I hope to protect the abutting twelve acres as well.

  6. Very inspiring! Thank you for making this video. We need to hear about more inspirational projects and people. As he says if we all do what we can in our corner of the planet the possibilities are endless.

  7. Those push mowers are so good for your health and the environment. I love this guy. He even cycles!!!
    What an absolute hero✌️&❤️

  8. ‘Some sort of inspiration’ is the biggest understatement I’ve ever heard. I’m beyond inspired. My turn to connect and live alongside our earth in a real way. In the most true way I can

  9. I hope you know that many of us are doing this, all over the world. We will take nature back, we are educated and full of love and compassion. We can make this world a better place.

  10. First of all, a hearthy thanks to everyone who made this documentary possible. From the fantastic cinematography to the great music and overall high quality of the production – THANK YOU. I believe a large part of the reason why we're living in such an unsustainable and harmful way is that most people assume they need to make such a drastic change in their lives to have any impact on the world that the task seems insurmountable and they just give up, accepting their fate. But that's most definitely not the case. Even a small change is something that contributes to the conversion that needs to happen on a global scale. Hugh said it in the video – you just need to do your best. Thankfully I feel that with the increasing frequency and availability of psychedelics globally (including some states and countries legalizing mushrooms and similar entheogens) we are on the brink of a conscious revolution. The next step for humanity is to once again connect and rejuvenate the severed and utterly vital link to our only Mother. Change is on the horizon, but it is a race against humanity's bad habits and ignorance. I pray with my heart that change comes sooner rather than later, no matter how insignificant it might seem at first. A wave is rising, friends. Let's make it one that will change the world for the better.

  11. humans are so fucking dumb for clear cutting forests . sooo dumb. only future growth can be based on repairing our fuck ups

  12. We don’t need to consume animals. We could easily thrive on a plant based diet. Eating animals even if it’s just “a little” keeps these terrain destroying and global warming farms funded. If one loves nature ; and animals don’t eat any type of animal products.

  13. The elite started the UN……..now you'll donate your land to UNESCO when you die………and then the elite have control of your land for corporate raping………….just……………….fucking genius ……..you and the rest will make the rest us parish !!!!

  14. Very interesting project.
    Couple things I noticed.
    1) This could be done with a properly managed grazing system for grass based meat systems.
    Ruminants and forests can co-exist. Why does a project like this have to be anti meat? We do need food and your property which I would classify as range land can support a meat production system along with your native forest if you manage it properly.
    Perhaps you are hunting wildlife as a meat source which I suppose works too, but we can raise domestic livestock in these types of systems along with the forest.
    I admire his ability to consume less fossil fuels in a world gone wild however I find it interesting that he sure didn't mind the fossil fuels in the choppers putting out the fire.
    Anyways happy regeneration to yea fellow. Keep up the good work.

  15. looking for a piece of unused New Zealand farmland to do just this and turn it back to Nature's forests… where to find?


  17. Remarkable recovery. Beautiful forest. I have questions though. I've seen articles and videos discussing atmospheric carbon level have been as high as 5 times, maybe higher, as present day, many times in the past. Earth was almost entirely a lush jungle or forest. Plant life was clearly thriving. So wouldn't increased CO2 benefit his restoration project? Which is already happening. I've read literature claiming the planet is greening at a higher rate. Crops are growing more vigorously. At least natural crops. I'm not sure of the industrial farming numbers.

    I think we should think less on how we can heal the planet and more on how we can help the planet heal itself. I keep seeing CO2 called a "green house gas". But isn't really plant food? I agree with this project. Deforestation, over harvesting, and pollution are my rallying call. Our energies would be better spent by following in this man's path, than backing politicians who smile and shake your hand while robbing you with the other or who will say or do anything for a vote.

  18. Abundant complex creation is plenty of evidence for God the Creator.
    Nonconscious physical things can't make useful design information for biogenesis.

  19. I have the same issue with canary grass. Grows 5 ft+ tall in single season. Will deter growth by shade. Problem is with the quick growth, any seedling trees with die out with shade. Will be doing the chop n drop method until the trees can shade out the grass. UGH!

  20. Thank you for being a pioneer in regenerative foraging. You there up with Allen Savory..Zimbabwe, Joel Salatin USA and Richard Perkins..Stocholm.

  21. when those fools and dreamers are the reason why you're still breathing for free 😆 at least we are not still buying air

  22. People who are happy about this should check out the Bealtaine Cottage youtube channel. One vegan woman in Ireland turned 3 acres of wet, rushy field into a permaculture woodland eco sanctuary. 15 years later and she's planted thousands of trees, shrubs and flowers. Go check it out!

  23. Do not let nature take its course …you will end up with garbage….it must be managed by removing the lower species …. encouraging quality trees to grow naturally and then planting seedlings to fill any gaps… I have 100 acres…. This year I planted 4500 red spruce trees… Most of the work is in clearing the land….most of the cut brush must be burnt as it attracts bugs that will damage your good trees… then you plant… but you cannot walk away and let nature take its course… You have to ensure that your trees achieve dominance… by clearing locally around them…. especially in the fall…. If not the majority of what you plant will be crushed by weeds when they die then snow covers them … and then the trees die.. Typically what happens to old farm land is that less then desirable species will dominate… In my area that is fir and white spruce… both of with are junk compared to red and black spruce… I will do about 20000 trees in total… It will take at least 5 years…I am a right winger …. I have done more for the environment than all left wingers combined… You are full of shit !!!! Down with Trudeau and Trump 2020 !!!

  24. The reason why everybody cannot live off the land is it is not sustainable. The reason why we settled down was less land was needed to consume more energy. The reason why we prefer cities is less land and time is needed to move incredible amount of resources across the globe from groups of people operating the activity. We have actually made better use of land resources urbanising the only issues is the industrial scale has ignored seasons and the importance of natural Rhythms. If we can fix the understanding of natural rhythmic cycles and there by not only manage our population, the population of other species and the whole earth itself as a system based on natural rhythmic patterns we have better chances than some guy growing a forrest and living off the land. This will not only is unrealistic but just pure BS

  25. Depending where you are, letting nature “grow wild” is not always the case. The ecological needs of every region can be vastly different

  26. Thank you much for this beautiful film and for the work that Hugh has done. It is very inspirational and hopeful for our planet. 🙏

  27. We have turned a 6 acre monoculture barren piece of land in Essex into a food forest and nature reserve. Great to see so many others doing this too

  28. The land that you'll stop farming could be made into food forests. Geoff Lawton has a good lecture on food forest design. Anyhow, from what I understand, CO2 is not a problem, we could stand to double or triple the CO2 levels in the atmosphere, and have it actually be good for the planet, but pollution in general and resource mismanagement, that's definitely a problem in my eyes.

  29. "I don't have a cellphone. It would be pointless anyway because we're out of cellphone range here. Thank goodness. Thanks heavens" 🙂

    He seems so content and so happy. Just love this person for all the work he's been doing for nature.

    I'll do something in my own little corner of the world and sir, your work will definitely be an inspiration.

  30. A fantastic little film. I’m sure whole communities would love to see this, I know mine would.
    Wonderful cinematography!

  31. every time my trees drop seeds i carry in my purse and drop them when i go for walks in the woods. My whole back yard is almost all dead thanks to the ash borer beetle

  32. Thank you for your knowledge and hard work. I used to live in Wellington NZ and said to my mum when visiting "where has all the gorse on the hills gone?" (now there are beautiful bushes). She said "I don't know". Well now I do, can't wait to tell her. The hills are now used for bush walkers, hikers etc, whereas before no one wanted to walk along the gorse track. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your passion, principals and bloody hard work.

  33. It’s amazing to see the people that didn’t follow the usual life path and followed their dreams. People like this are at peace with their life and seem to live every moment in bliss, unlike the majority of people who grind their whole lives in pursuit of money and material possessions.

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