Water sensitive design features: their function and effectiveness over ten years in a botanic garden


  • Emma Simpkins Auckland Council https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6123-1011
  • Robyn Simcock Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
  • Rebecca Stanley Auckland Council
  • Jack Hobbs Auckland Botanic Gardens




water sensitive design, rain garden, swale, plant selection


Water sensitive design (WSD) is a nature-based solution to urban stormwater problems which involves intercepting rainfall and stormwater from impervious surfaces using a range of devices. These devices rely on soils and plants to slow water flows, reduce water volumes and improve the quality of the water reaching our rivers, streams, lakes and oceans. Common devices used in Auckland, New Zealand are rain gardens and swales. Auckland Botanic Gardens (ABG) has applied a variety of these devices, often in ‘treatment trains’ and focusing on the use of native New Zealand plants, to solve an on-site environmental problem. ABG additionally supports research, advocates for the selection and effective maintenance of the native New Zealand plants, and educates the public about WSD. Recommendations for plant selection in Auckland for rain gardens and swales are made based on ten years of observations and trials at ABG.

Author Biographies

Emma Simpkins, Auckland Council

Senior Regional Advisor Flora at Auckland Council

Robyn Simcock, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research

Senior Ecologist/Soil Scientist at Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research

Rebecca Stanley, Auckland Council

Principal Advisor Conservation Partnerships at Auckland Council

Jack Hobbs, Auckland Botanic Gardens

Manager at Auckland Botanic Gardens


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Vegetation and pond with blue sky




How to Cite

Simpkins, E., Simcock, R., Stanley, R., & Hobbs, J. (2023). Water sensitive design features: their function and effectiveness over ten years in a botanic garden . Sibbaldia: The International Journal of Botanic Garden Horticulture, (22). https://doi.org/10.24823/Sibbaldia.2022.2004