Twenty Years of Providing Free Plants in An Urban New Zealand Setting: What Affects Community Participation and Planting Success?
An urban greening programme in Wellington, New Zealand providing free plants to city residents was evaluated with the following objectives: 1. To assess the levels of plant survival after five, ten, and fifteen years and determine factors contributing to observed survival; 2. To investigate factors influencing participation in the programme; 3. To quantify the some of the socioeconomic factors relating to programme participants and environmental factors relating to sites. Data were collected from a combination of council records, site surveys and postal questionnaire surveys. The study found that plant survival was generally poor, but was mainly influenced by indigeneity of the plants. Contrary to many theories of exotic invasiveness, New Zealand native plants were 4.3 times more likely to survive than exotic plants. Site based effects were not found to influence survival significantly; nor were specific plant traits, or year of planting. A small sample of these sites was matched to questionnaire responses and it was found that length of residence by programme participants increased the performance of the best model indigeneity, indicating that increasing length of residence was a predictor of better survival of plantings. The questionnaire respondents included both those who had participated in the programme and those who had not. The sample population, however, was quite distinct from the general population of the region, being older, wealthier, having higher levels of education, and twice as likely to own their own home. As suggested by previous research looking at the effects of socioeconomic factors on urban forestry or urban greening participation was shown in this study to be mainly affected by the age of the respondent, which increased the odds of participation by 200% between the youngest and oldest age groups. This socioeconomic model was improved when two factors were included: the number of trees outside their property, and, horticultural knowledge of the participant. This indicates that participants might be more motivated by personal interest in horticulture, than in improving environmental conditions.