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Man behind acclaimed Banks Peninsula nature reserve inspires film Fools and Dreamers

A film called Fools and Dreamers which is currently touring cinemas around New Zealand was inspired by the man behind an acclaimed nature reserve on Banks Peninsula.

Hugh Wilson, now 74, was himself called a fool and a dreamer when he came up with the idea of the Hinewai Reserve in the mid 1980s.

But he also inspired generations of environmentalists and he remains unfazed, Seven Sharp reported.

"I was still doing my botanical survey still then. And I was thinking at that stage 'gosh, wouldn't I love a bit of land here just to let nature reassert herself properly here.' But I'd never earned enough money to buy land like that," Mr Wilson recalled.

So others helped finance it, and Hinewai Reserve was born.

"In 1987 it was basically a very untidy looking marginal farm," he explained.

"We don't plant. Everyone thinks we're planting this forest. But nature's doing the planting. Nature in fact is doing all the serious work here."

That included letting the native trees take over, and the gorse disappeared.

"We wrote an article for The Akaroa Mail about what we were trying to do. And this letter came back in the next issue and it basically said 'oh these are just naive greenies.' He actually said, 'heaven help us from fools and dreamers'." 

Now at 1500 hectares, there are dreams of further growth for the reserve.

"We would love to go from the summit - the sub alpine summit - to the sea. And we don't go to the sea yet," Mr Wilson said.

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Seven Sharp’s Mike Thorpe meets Hugh Wilson, a great New Zealander. Source: Seven Sharp