Robyn Simcock

Robyn Simcock

Reconstructive Ecologist with Manaaki Whenua


Robyn is a reconstructive ecologist with Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, a crown-owned research agency, working where people have outrageous impacts – completely stripping ecosystems, from leaves to subsoils, in cities, transport routes and mines. These are places where recent research shows ecology can benefit people (health, liveability, safety) and business. It’s also where the least biodiversity remains, and where it needs to be placed ‘front and centre’ so New Zealanders better appreciate their unique biodiversity, can get involved personally, and can benefit personally, if they know what to do.

Reconstruction can be complex; my background training in soil science, ecology and horticulture applied to 20-ish years of research and consultancy helps me understand and apply insights from specialist taxonomists, hydrologists, engineers, geo-chemists. I’ve enjoyed being coached by local kaitiaki from Waikato in mining and farm rehabilitation, and in Auckland through Water Sensitive Design (or Low Impact Urban Design). Water Sensitive Design research also led to enormously rewarding collaborations with Auckland Botanic Gardens staff. Together we have designed and monitored green roofs, swales and other stormwater devices over the last 10 years alongside other projects such as invertebrate habitat construction. Together we’ve generated knowledge about how our native biodiversity can contribute to, and benefit from, capital investments in stormwater and road infrastructure. Central government, Councils and NZ Transport Agency co-funded the research and its outputs: demonstration sites (Sustainable Water Trail at the Auckland Botanic Gardens) and technical guides (e.g., Landscape and ecology values within stormwater 2009, living roof review and design recomendations guidance 2013, NZTA Landscape Guidelines 2014) and National Science Challenge Building Better Houses Towns and Communities ‘Activating WSUD’ work. Hopefully these various projects are helping people and agencies help biodiversity as part of their way of working.