Tucked away down a quiet driveway framed by native trees lies New Zealand Native Oils an oasis in Otaihanga.

It’s a beautiful spot that celebrates its natural surroundings with timber cladding, lots of greenery, and the shop’s water feature embracing you with the peaceful sound of running water as you step through the door. And it’s all here because Maria Brocklebank followed her passion for understanding traditional plant medicine practices.

The products themselves are gorgeous, but the experience of shopping in this purpose-built haven is a sensory delight that represents Maria’s own holistic health journey.

“Spirituality and meditation is so powerful for healing and feeling good. I have always intuitively felt that. So when I found myself in the depths of depression after going through cancer treatment in my early 40s, I knew it was the mental that needed the most fixing, not the physical.”

As a young girl, Maria says she was always interested in making things and experimenting with blending natural ingredients, which she’d bottle up and give to family and friends. But a career in IT took flight first, so it wasn’t until Maria had become a mother, survived cancer, and relocated with her cabinet-maker husband to start a native plant nursery in Kāpiti that she decided it was time to explore that intriguing pathway.

“Along the way I did take some skincare and aromatherapy classes, following the things that captured my attention. I felt drawn to it. When we opened the nursery, I ended up having to do a lot of research for the native plants, which opened up the fascinating world of traditional plant medicine with a New Zealand lens, and I was hooked.”

At the same time, Maria and her husband Gary were learning about his ancestors, with his great-great-great-grandmother being one of the last full-blooded Moriori. Through this research, they learned of the similarities between traditional plant medicine practices including rongoā. When it came time to formalise NZ Native Oils as a retail business, the couple sought permission to use the recognisable Moriori symbol as part of their brand.

“It was a wonderful connection that we uncovered through Gary’s family, which was an uncanny spiritual connection to my own journey. I think if you can show what you’re doing is true and done with respect, and that I can be authentic about the way I am sharing it, it comes down to … I am a proud person of this land, and I utilise its incredible natural benefits for others to enjoy and find relief.”

Incredibly, the growth of NZ Native Oils has become stronger since the COVID pandemic, which saw the rise of the ‘self-love’ movement and opened the doors to people questioning where their personal care products came from and, importantly, what was in them.

The evolution of the shop has been organic and expertly handled by Gary, whose previous career as a cabinet maker has been invaluable. Within the retail space itself, the products stocked include balms, oils, creams, salves, and tinctures created by Maria, and a number of natural and organic products including toothpaste and tea, and a speciality range of products designed to help arthritis sufferers.

“There really is something for everyone, and it’s things that people are already familiar with, it’s just that they’re used to buying the unnatural versions from the supermarket. I think this is a really common mind block, which can actually then convince you that something isn’t going to work. The mind is so powerful, and natural products are better for you!”

Maria’s daughters are now 23 (twins) and 15 and they all help out in the shop, from making products to packing orders. Maria explains that this has been a blessing in disguise, as her two older girls have both been going through some mental health challenges, and her younger girl has mild autism. Having a calm, safe space that practises holistic well-being through sensory surroundings, aromatherapy, and tactile tasks she says has all been very helpful to their unique journeys through life.

“It took me until 50 to find a job that I actually enjoy doing because I finally listened to my intuition and what I have always known. The environment that I am in, and that I am surrounded by, is part of the holistic practice of wellbeing. I created this space for myself and I filled it with things that I love. It just so happens that some of the things I create can help other people too.”

NZ Native Oils products are available at the on-site shop at 140 Otaihanga Road, and at Welly Collective stores in North City Porirua, Queensgate, Johnsonville Mall, Courtenay Place, and Featherston Street. Maria will also be showcasing her range at the Wellington Women’s Lifestyle Expo at TSB Arena, 13-14 April.