About the film
“Fools and Dreamers tells the most important story of our time.”
– Paul Hawken, founder Project Drawdown
“Watch this natural Kiwi miracle: how the earth regenerates native bush if given half a chance.”
– Bunny McDiarmid, Executive Director Greenpeace International
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.
“Regenerating human rights can learn from nature: it takes ‘Fools and Dreamers’ to give life a chance….”
– a personal message from Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International
“Jean Giono’s allegorical tale, ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’ has been enjoyed by readers all around the world for more than 65 years. Fools & Dreamers is a modern-day equivalent, about a man called Hugh Wilson who didn’t actually plant trees, but who is successfully regenerating New Zealand native bush on the Banks Peninsula in the South Island – ‘from the summit to the sea’. This is a gentle, inspirational story, capturing the spirit of both the place and the man, but serving at the same time as a powerful ‘call to action’ for all of us to heed.”
– Jonathon Porritt, Forum for the Future
“This is an inspirational documentary. It reveals the benefits to be had personally and for humanity from walking (and biking) the talk about ecosystem restoration. It shows through a beautifully filmed example that restoring native biodiversity doesn’t require inputs like re-seeding or technology, rather it needs the halting of manipulation and artificial inputs. This lovingly managed hands-off approach shows how a badly damaged ecosystem could return to health and regain native biodiversity at a pace that has surprised both detractors and supporters. There are many fantastic ‘how-to’ restoration lessons built in to this story, revealing multiple gains for humans and nature. But at heart it is a very human story.”
– Dr Mike Joy, freshwater ecologist