Fools & Dreamers is a 30-minute documentary telling the story of Hinewai Nature Reserve, on Canterbury’s Banks Peninsula, and its kaitiaki/manager of 30 years, botanist Hugh Wilson. We learn about the commitment of Hugh and the Maurice White Native Forest Trust to regenerate marginal, hilly farmland into native forest, using a minimal interference method that allows nature to do the work, giving life to over 1500 hectares of native forest, waterways, and the creatures that live within them.
When, in 1987, Hugh let the local community know about his plans to allow gorse to grow as a nurse canopy for self-sown native trees, the response was sceptical at best and outright angry and disparaging for the most part – one farmer stating the plan was the sort to be expected only of “fools and dreamers”. Now considered a local hero by town and country folk alike, Hugh’s home at Hinewai overlooks a valley resplendent in native forest canopy, where birds and other wildlife are abundant and 47 known waterfalls are in permanent flow.
An inspiring, charismatic personality, Hugh’s passion and enthusiasm for his life’s project come through in every sentence he speaks. A dreamer who has made his dream come true, Hugh has proven without doubt that nature knows best – and that he is no fool.