First West Coast horticulture students growing their skills

Green-fingered West Coasters are already signing-up for the second intake.


Green-fingered West Coasters are already signing-up for the second intake of Tai Poutini Polytechnic’s new horticulture training programme in 2023.

The new programme was launched earlier this year as part of the Westport-based Conservation Training and Employment Hub, in response to local demand for skills. Tutor Jennifer van Beek says the first students have had a wide range of interests, from those keen to put their skills to use in their own garden, through to others going on to further training ahead of career in the horticulture industry.

“We’ve had 11 students through the programme this year, based in Greymouth and Westport, and I’ve already got people contacting me about next year’s delivery. It’s a fascinating programme that covers a wide range of topics from really practical things like propagation right through to soil science. The students have particularly enjoyed our practical sessions where they’ve been able to propagate and take home their own plants to grow.”

Jennifer brings more than 15 years’ experience in horticulture to the programme, through roles spanning native nurseries, garden centre retail, nursery wholesale management, setting up a native plant business and, most recently, establishing a Westport blueberry farm with partner Dave that’s growing year-on-year.

“I’ve always loved horticulture; I grew up on a farm just out of Hokitika and learned a lot from my family, especially around native plants, the properties of different plants and what they can be used for.

“Horticulture is such a wonderful and wide field and we cover a lot in the full-time programme. So whether you’re interested in market gardening, retail, home gardening, wholesale, orchard work, lab-based scientific work, landscaping or anything else horticulture-related – this is a fantastic place to start learning.”

The programme also considers the wider issues of conservation, such as horticulture to support green economies, the benefits of riparian planting and other environmental impacts.

“We have a diverse range of students starting from late teens right through to those in their 50s. Some of them want to learn a bit more so they can garden at home, growing their own food and propagating their own plants, right through to those who want to go on to study landscape design and work in the industry.”

Learning is flexible for students, with a blended delivery approach using online learning materials and the iQualify online learning platform both developed by the Open Polytechnic, alongside Jennifer’s practical and class sessions in Greymouth and Westport. The mix of online and face-to-face delivery continues to be refined as the programme progresses and student needs are assessed, alongside demand from local employers which was the driver for introducing training through the Conservation Training and Employment Hub.

Open Polytechnic Chief Executive, Dr Caroline Seelig says the online learning specialist is pleased to be able to collaborate and support this blended delivery model with regional network partner, Tai Poutini Polytechnic.
“West Coast learners can study online to complement their on-campus learning in the Horticulture programme giving them greater flexibility. Tai Poutini Polytechnic can benefit from the work we have already done to create great learning materials, using them to meet their learners’ needs. As we come together as part of Te Pūkenga we believe there will only be greater opportunities for collaborations like this”.

Key skills covered include: growing plants from seeds and cuttings; how plants function; soils and fertilisers; selecting and pruning; identifying weeds and pests; recognising diseases; planting for different environments. 


Published 5 October 2022