New Zealand native plants have come full circle from bad boy to favourite child with the announcement that a long time campaigner and conservationist has been awarded the Minister of Conservation’s prestigious Loder Cup – kicking off national Conservation Week.
Tauranga resident, Mark Dean has been named as this year’s recipient of the Loder Cup.
He was nominated for the award by the Nursery and Garden Industry Association,(NGIA) for his services to botany.
Dean is not only a past President but a life member of the NGIA, an industry group representing nurseries and retail garden centres nationwide.
Mark and wife Esme set up their business Naturally Native some 32 years ago well before native plants were in vogue. He recalls setting up his trade stand at the 1989 Field Days only to be greeted by grumbles of: “We’ve spent years getting rid of these plants and this clown wants us to buy them back. He must be mad!”
How times have changed. Naturally Native is now the biggest native plant nursery in New Zealand. Their growing customer base includes farmers and rural folk alike, but that’s not how Mark Dean measures success.
“My vision has always been for Aotearoa to look like Aotearoa not a mini England or Japan. Botanists from all over the world admire our unique flora and my vision has been to change New Zealanders attitudes towards these plants. Slowly but surely this is happening and that’s the legacy I feel most proud of,” he says.
“The commitment of Mark Dean has been extraordinary. When native plants were not fashionable, he championed their conservation. He has been a major driving force behind changes in industry and consumer attitudes. We’re absolutely thrilled that his efforts have been acknowledged in this way,” says John Liddle Chief Executive of NGIA.
In announcing the award, Hon Minister of Conservation, Kate Wilkinson, commented:
“He has spent much of the past 30 years inspiring others as an advisor, teacher and role model both within the horticulture industry and in community conservation projects. Mark is a conservation champion and it is a pleasure to award him the Loder Cup,” she said.
Mark feels overwhelmed by the attention the award announcement has generated. He is quick to credit his achievements to the support of his wife, Esme whose role in the company enabled him to pursue his other conservation interests.
“We nominated Mark not just because of his contribution to our industry but his commitment to all things conservation evidenced in the long list of groups he continues to support,” says Liddle.
Mark Dean will officially receive his award from Hon Minister of Conservation, Kate Wilkinson at an NGIA function in Tauranga towards the end of October.
English botanist Gerald Loder donated the Loder Cup in 1926, to honour New Zealanders who work to ‘retain, investigate and cherish New Zealand’s incomparable flora’. The Minister of Conservation awards the Loder Cup each year to acknowledge achievements in flora conservation.
Mark Dean is Past Secretary and Trustee of Tane’s Tree Trust, Trustee of Trees for Survival, Chairman of Otanewinuku Kiwi Trust, and Chair of the Dune Restoration Trust of New Zealand. He has provided support around the country for setting up and running Maori native plant nurseries. He continues to support a number of iwi and hapu projects.