Gardenstar supports native species in our urban land, while improving human well-being

With 87% of Kiwis living in cities and 36% of the land area of our cities being made up of gardens, these spaces represent a huge, untapped resource to create biodiverse sites where rare endangered species could grow and thrive. 

Supported by Te Atiawa, conceptualised by co-founders at the University of Otago, and joint-funded by the Endangered Species Foundation and Ministry for the Environment, Gardenstar is:

  • A metric tool, measuring the biodiverse and sustainable value of gardens anywhere in Aotearoa

  • A programme which radically supports the rapid development and use of urban gardens to feed and nourish humans and all other species

  • A movement to maximise support for biodiversity

Gardenstar aims to support Kiwis in the creation of biodiverse green corridors and stepping stones in residential and community gardens to enable native species to navigate and thrive in our modern cities.


And, in doing so, to support greater human-nature connection and well-being.

Empowering humans to nurture ourselves and other species 

at home, at school, on our marae and across our communities.


The Gardenstar concept was created by co-founders Yolanda van Heezik and Philip Seddon from the Department of Zoology at the University of Otago.  With support from some of Aotearoa's best ecologists, Yolanda and Philip developed a metric tool modelled on the Homestar concept which provides a robust, scientific framework with which to assess biodiversity on any piece of land in Aotearoa.  Over the summer of 2020-2021, they tested the research in a pre-pilot study which assessed 80 residential gardens in Dunedin and the Wakatipu Basin.

Gardening Class
Group Planting a Tree


In May of 2021, Gardenstar's journey beyond the lab was officially launched.  What now follows is a co-creation process which is working with communities to learn:

  • How can we, as the people of Aotearoa NZ, feed ourselves and nurture all other species from within our own backyards, our schools, our marae, and our
    own communities?​ ​

  • How can we better support and connect to nature for our own human well-being?

​Through this co-design process, we are learning the role that Gardenstar can play and how we can put the concept to use in a tangible way (a Minimum Viable Product) which enables Aotearoa's residents to improve biodiversity in their own communities and create maximum impact for our native species.

Are you a biodiversity champion?

Gardenstar is on a sprint now through to July 2021, during which time we are talking to potential users in a series of interviews and workshops to learn how the science behind Gardenstar could support their lives and communities.

This co-creation process will enable us to identify a Minimum Viable Product for the Gardenstar concept - the vehicle with which we can take this biodiversity tool into communities. 


It could be a self-assessment survey, or a curated box of seeds and care instructions.  It could be a combination of existing resources including apps and educational materials which help Kiwis make maximum impact.  We're asking our interviewees and workshop participants to tell us what Gardenstar should become. 

Once we think we know, we'll be taking that Minimum Viable Product to Wellington for a limited pilot to test it.  If we can prove that the community really wants and needs Gardenstar during that initial pilot, we'll be rolling it out for wider testing from August 2021.


Photo: Werner Sevenster