Richard Nanson

 1986  to 1991
Succeeded Ian Galloway as Director.


There were a number significant achievements under his directorship:


  •  Initiating and planning the 1991 Centennial of City Council management of the Garden;
  • The Friends of the Wellington Botanic Garden  established in 1990;
  •  The first comprehensive management plan for the Garden produced in 1990;
  •  A new Education and Environment Centre (The Treehouse) built above the Main Garden in 1991.
  • With Barbara Mathews presented the weekly gardening show on television

1991 Centennial of City Council management of the Garden

The Garden was established in 1868, but management responsibility was transferred to the Wellington City Council in 1891,  primarily because of the loss of Government funding. An extensive program of entertainment was provided for this centenary.  The letter of invitation to the Friends of the Gaden is attached outlining the program. 







The 150th anniversary of the founding of the garden (1868) occurs in 2018, another milestone in the story of this Garden.  It will be interesting to see how this is celebrated this time.

The formal management of the garden by the NZ Institute followed the following year (1869).  The Wellington City Council took management control in 1891.  


Friends of the Wellington Botanic Garden

Richard Nanson was a strong proponent for the establishment of a Friends organisation, even visiting Australia to see how such organisations worked there.  He was strongly supported by a number of prominent people in the city, including Winsome Shepherd.

 Prior to its formal establishment, (1990) the expected role and benefits from such an organisation was promolgated.  It is interesting to now review those objectives, and it is pleasing that the organisation has significantly fulfilled those expectations.  That document is published below  -



The Friends of the Wellington Botanic Garden formed as an Incorporated Society in 1990 to promote and support the development of the Botanic Garden, to raise funds and support Garden projects, and to foster public interest in its educational, historical, cultural, recreational and scientific functions.

The Friends work as volunteers to guide walks and host events in the Garden, organise bulb sales, arrange lectures, social functions and displays of historic and heritage interest, maintain a register of the Memorials in the Garden, raise funds and assist Garden Management with a variety of Garden projects.

You’ll see footprints of the Friends around the Garden. Recent projects we have implemented include the installation of permanent downhill path markers made of New Zealand-designed glass ceramic mosaic pavers in a rata design, the placing of directional and interpretative signage in the native bush remnants, the renovation of the Joy Fountain, the provision of entrances to the Pinetum, the renewal of many of the path markers and the maintenance of the “butterfly garden” on Druid Hill.

Education and Environment Centre (The Treehouse)


 Treehouse entry tower from Main Garden

Treehouse entry reception, and exhibition space

Having provided a locally trained and educated workforce, the direction now within the Botanic Garden was seen  to provide information and education for the community.   The opening of the original Botanic Garden Interpretive Centre in 1983 was the first practical step towards realising this.   The staff have always been involved in the horticultural interests of the Community.   Directors and gardeners have linked the Botanic Garden to the various horticultural societies down the years.   G F Glen was reported judgmg the carnations and pot plants at the first exhibition of the Wellington Rose and Carnation Club held in the Town Hall in 1904.   In 1923 when the Horticultural Society faced a financial crisis, MacKenzie took on the job of secretary "to put it on its feet again".  Hutt and Galloway supported public horticultural events through the local district council of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture and the Horticultural Society.   At shows plant material in the form of competition blooms, feature displays, and educational exhibitions have been provided from the resources of the Botanic Garden.  This centre, established in the old machine room of the Cable Car, was discontinued in 1987  with the planned development of the Treehouse.

Practical information was given by MacKenzie during the Second World War when he held 'Dig for Victory' vegetable growing demonstrations on Magpie Lawn.   From the 1950's at least, public pruning demonstrations have been held annually at the Rose Garden, and these continue today.   Some staff have played a part in promoting horticulture in the media.   Following James Stirling's retirement in the 1970's, Richard Nanson with Barbara Mathews, presented the weekly gardening show on television.  This tradition was continued by Bruce Harkness, foreman in charge of the Rose Garden, who demonstrated vegetable gardening on the Sunday programme 'Dig This'.   In many ways over the years the staff of the Botanic Garden and the Department have provided horticultural information to the Community.  This service was seen to be enhanced through the Interpretive Centre, and to this end very successful seasonal workshops are organised at the Centre on practical horticultural subjects.   The services offered to the Community by an educated horticultural workforce promote and establish the purpose of the Botanic Garden within that Community.   This ensures the survival of both the Garden and the<workforce.

The interpretation of the Botanic Garden through its Centre can call in the skills, not only of people employed by the Department, but also of those out in the community who have some expertise to offer. Richard Nanson, regarded the possibility of such community  involvements as an example of the way in which the Botanic Garden and the other city reserves may develop in the future.  A large resource has been created, and a "hands on" attitude is needed by the Department towards the public of Wellington to make them
aware of what they have.   For this to be effective an officer responsible for planning and effecting Departmental recreational and resource promotion could well be appointed.   Within such a scheme the Interpretive Centre would serve as a major disseminating point for this wider Departmental promotion as well as developing and presenting the resources of the Botanic Garden. 

With this background the decision was made to provide a modern interpretative centre, now called the Treehouse.  In addition to this function, it provided accomodation and facilities for the administration of the gardens, with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature also invovled, providing additional educational resources within the garden environment.
 
The WWF departed in 2013 providing the opportunity for all the garden administration to move into this one building.  The opportunity to develop the entry into an exhibition space was also undertaken, and a number of displays and exhibitions have effectively utilised this area.

Children's Garden

The Treehouse Visitor Centre was opened in 1991.  Director Richard Nanson and senior staff proposed that a children's garden be established.  Interestingly, it was to be in the same area as the current proposal, above the nursery, with the site terraced to provide flat areas. With the completion of the Treehouse, direct access from the classroom, now the seminar room of the Treehouse,  could be easily provided.  However, the cost of excavation and removal of material was considerable, and the loss of standing areas for the nursery became major issues.  With the considerable development cost of the Treehouse, finance constraints were also a significant matter, and while there was general support,  the idea never progressed past the concept stage.

Floriade Floral Festival 21 September 1991 to 21 September 1992




The directors, keepers, managers, curators of the garden in order of appointment
Their titles have changed over the years