Fools & Dreamers: Regenerating a Native Forest is a free 30-minute documentary about Hinewai Nature Reserve, on New Zealand’s Banks Peninsula, and its kaitiaki/manager of 30 years, botanist Hugh Wilson. When, in 1987, Hugh let the local community know of his plans to allow the introduced ‘weed’ gorse to grow as a nurse canopy to regenerate farmland into native forest, people were not only skeptical but outright angry – the plan was the sort to be expected only of “fools and dreamers”.

Now considered a hero locally and across the country, Hugh oversees 1500 hectares resplendent in native forest, where birds and other wildlife are abundant and 47 known waterfalls are in permanent flow. He has proven without doubt that nature knows best – and that he is no fool.

An audio description (AD) version of this film is also available. Play Fools & Dreamers with audio description.


Forest regeneration is one of the most important actions that needs to be taken globally to address the environmental crises we’re facing today.

Our hope is that people from all over the world will draw inspiration from what’s happening at Hinewai Reserve, which is why we’ve made the film free to view.

But we need your help! Please consider sharing the film with a friend, posting about it to your social networks, or host a screening in your community.



Keen to share an inspirational film with your community? How about hosting a screening of Fools & Dreamers?

We’ve made the film freely available on YouTube, but if you’re holding an event you’ll need a public screening licence. You’ll receive a high-quality download of the film, promotional materials, screening tips and a PDF invoice. It could be a free event, a fundraiser, or whatever you’d like to do. We’ll be splitting the proceeds from licence fees with Hinewai Reserve.

Film nights are a great way to connect with your community and we’ve set our fees very low to make this as accessible as possible.


The work at Hinewai Reserve is made possible in part due to generous donations from people all over the world. If you’d like to make a contribution, big or small, you can do so using the PayPal donate button (you don’t need a PayPal account, just a credit card) or by bank transfer/cheque using the details below.

Direct credit
Maurice White Native Forest Trust
BNZ Akaroa
02 0832 0044225 00

Maurice White Native Forest Trust
Hinewai Reserve
632 Long Bay Road
R.D.3 Akaroa 7583
New Zealand


The beautiful soundtrack to Fools & Dreamers, composed by Karl Steven and Ariana Tikao, is available for purchase as an album on Bandcamp. All proceeds from sales will be donated to Hinewai Reserve.

Check it out


If you enjoyed Fools & Dreamers you might like other films we’ve made. We currently have 22 other films available to watch for free that explore the themes of sustainable living, permaculture, tiny houses, interviews with inspiring people, and much more.


“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

“A powerful ‘call to action’ for all of us to heed.”
– Jonathon Porritt, Forum for the Future

“This is an inspirational documentary.”
– Dr Mike Joy, freshwater ecologist

“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


  • blank Happen Films says:

    We’re so excited to finally share this film with you all. Let us know what you think of it!

    • blank Anita Pike says:

      Absolutely amazing, throughly enjoyed watching the film on YouTube. It just shows what you can do if you try! Well done!

    • blank Jennifer Celt says:

      I’m crying tears of joy, hope, and a bit of sadness after viewing this man’s incredible foresight, knowledge, caring, and ability to bring the earth back where it belongs. He is a beautiful soul. I pray others see this and follow his lead–enough others to reverse or at least stop the damage we’ve done over the past hundred years or so… Thank you for your work toward that goal <3

  • blank Mattias Olsson says:

    What a fantastic film, portraying of a fantastic person doing fantastic work! Thank you Jordan, Antoinette and the rest of the crew for bringing this to us!

  • blank Connie says:

    Beautifully made film about bringing a dream to reality, the importance of taking that first step and continuing it one step at a time. Hugh’s utter commitment to saving Mother Earth is visible in his every action. Thanh you Hugh for showing us that there is a way.

  • blank Elliot says:

    Incredible. Thank you

  • blank hannah grace says:

    As always, inspiring, gentle and beautiful. And a reminder that we need to start right where we are. Thank you.

  • blank Priscilla Spooner says:

    Great little Film helping to educate + tackle the Bigger Issues of the Worlds Enviroment ,Well Done !!!

  • blank Senol Elmaz says:

    Great to see this happening.
    My wife and I have just purchased 17.9 hectares and I am wanting to do the same. Here’s hoping We have as much success.

  • blank Jair McBain says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story and achievement! I can’t wait to get down and spend some time hiking around Hinewai ASAP. The film making was absolutely lovely.

  • blank Jeanne Steele says:

    Inspiring. Beautiful. Loved everything about this film and am sharing it. Thank you!

  • blank Joe Akers says:

    Thank you so much for sharing the energy and vision of this project

  • blank Marc says:

    I was very touched by this film and it gives me hope and inspiration and courage

  • blank Rick Gates says:

    Beautiful! Hugh is definitely Mother Nature’s son…

  • blank alexiaLANDarch says:

    Great film! Wonderful work. Love to hear from kindred spirits. True stewards of natural spaces!

  • blank N.Martin says:

    We need much more of this with native forests, especially where the land is marginal.
    I was staggered to read recently Japan with a population vastly bigger than our own, still has 70 percent of their native forests intact.
    NZ by comparison has decimated their forests and we have less than 30% left.
    We need farms and homes-so do the Japanese, but the imbalance here is far too great.
    We could and should get back to at least a 50/50 scenario and inspirational movies like this show just how easily it can be achieved.

  • blank Jack says:

    Wonderful film. Beautiful people. I am inspired. I wish to do the same, I can feel it in my bones.

  • blank Mukund Vishnu Mavalankar says:

    This is my definition of what heaven would be. We would love to participate in conservation effort. I would love spend 15 or 20 days at this place along with my family. Wife, two daughters, two sons-in-law and a grandson. Can we visit in May 2020? Is it two cold in May.

  • blank Riyad says:

    I truely have no words to explain how …..
    My love & well wish for such a great human like him.
    So little i am.
    Honour Respect.

  • blank Richard says:

    Amazing work guys. If Hugh’s photo album/book was ever copied and printed i would pay a good penny to get hold of one, as im sure a lot of others would. It might be a good way to fund Hinewais regeneration for years to come.

  • blank Rabih says:

    Fantastic work.

    May GOD keep your health to keep doing this beautiful natural artwork.

  • blank Ann Giovacchini says:

    The film made me want to quit my job and get to work! Hugh leads by example and gives a glimpse of the most important work for our coming generations. I hope humanity chooses this path.

  • blank Yasmin Bendror says:

    My family who live in Wellington sent this to me to watch (Hugh is my nephew’s friend’s uncle). Just incredible what can be done with knowledge, patience, time, understanding, determination… and love. What a remarkable man, and team. This should be an example to the whole world. All governments, people, farms should know about this. Why not? It gives me such hope for our precious Earth. TY for making this, and spreading the word!

  • blank Heidi Jones says:

    Loved this so much. Fools and dreamers are my favourite!! Xxx

  • blank Branwen Lorigan says:

    I have just (6/4/20) watched this film from my house in England ( having lived in NZ for 17 years previously) it reminds me of the amazing potential there is if we work with nature . We have so much to learn from nature. What an inspiration Hugh is.

  • blank Dr Bruce Copley says:

    An inspiring example of having the insight and wisdom to trust natures innate holistic ability and capacity to regenerate and sustain itself ………I salute Hugh Wilson’s genius foolery and long may he continue really making a difference

  • blank Liza says:

    Loved this film, and what you are doing there is really amazing!
    Also with the part about letting mother nature do her thing, and she will heal.. <3
    I send you my love all the best!

  • blank Jordan says:

    This was an incredibly inspiring film. Thank you! And blessings upon Mr. Wilson for his work! I have long considered doing something similar in my corner of the United States; this film is one of many things that have strengthened my conviction that this is the right thing to do.

  • blank Mary Tang says:

    Some years ago a tour guide took me to visit Hinewai when I told him I was interested in bush regeneration. He told me the story of the gorse which I found fascinating. This film brought back memories of that wonderful day to me.

  • blank Rick Sprout says:

    Please add me to your email list if you have one.

  • blank Nathan Hart says:

    Hugh is a hero. I hope he is recognized in NZ

  • blank Shannon says:

    Wonderful film. It makes a person want to take steps to help nature regenerate from human destruction.

  • blank Roger Powell says:

    Thank you so much for your work and covering an extremely important subject,
    such grace and beauty in the brushlands and forests! Evocative soundtrack as well

  • blank Bianca Garcia-Gonzalez says:

    Beautiful video! 🙂

  • blank Gikonyo Ndugu says:

    Am inspired to start conservative Agricultural processes that will not affect the eco system and maintain economic sustainability.

  • blank Jeff Cottis says:

    Lincoln College could well do with students including Hinewai in a semester
    …. for the greater good.

  • blank Greg says:

    The wisdom and commitment of Hugh and his helpers when added to the magic of nature equals hope for the World. True beauty mate. Cheers.

  • blank Christine says:

    Beautiful film. It makes me so sad that I am in no position to buy any land and let it return to it’s natural state. Hopefully others can.

  • blank Morten Raahauge says:

    BRILLIANT! Absolutely brilliant. Just saw the movie. Love it. Simple but to the point and based on principle and knowledge. The most brilliant solutions are always the simple ones and the work and dedicating is just amazing. So much sense and respect – all the way through. I live in a country which is 62% farmland and THIS is exactly what we need. To give as much of the lands back to nature as we possibly can. Also kudos for hanging on to what must be a VERY old Gary Fisher bike!

  • blank Leigh says:

    Have only watched the 2min trailer and have goosebumps! Beautiful work capturing an inspiring story.

  • blank Dr. AvatarNirvana Perez says:

    Getting ready to do the same here in sunny Baja California, Mexico with 500 hectars, possibly more and room for expansion just a mile in from the ocean. It currently looks like the land you started on there with the potential to look subtropical. Already growing the best vines for wine here now in the Valle. Anyone interested in helping start here With your permission Stephen I’d like to add a lke to your project one Planet one Solutions. You can message me there, or directly at [email protected] – Blessings and thank you for all you do for our Mother/Gaia Earth.