Art of the possible: Hauora Garden

Hauora Garden Richard Orjis and A.D.Schierning  with Waitemata Local Board membersOne thing I love about my role on the Waitematā Local Board is being part of making small, local projects happen.  We often hear complaints that local government is slow, unresponsive and  wasteful but in my experience I have found Council staff to be passionate, creative and willing to work hard to deliver on a tight budget.   With political support they find ways to achieve, as Board Chair Shale Chambers likes to say, the Art of the Possible.

So it has been a special pleasure to see Hauora Garden spring up at Studio One, Toi Tū.  In early June I was at Studio One for Bee Jam, part of the POP programme of events (funded by the Waitematā Local Board). Lynda, Parks Team Leader was there for a visit and mentioned that there was still unallocated budget available for community gardening. Knowing that there was a fenced off overgrown section of
Studio One that  had been recently been identified as perfect for a garden I Hauora Garden Char Wiapo and Mark introduced her to Tracey the POP programme coordinator to find out if there was an opportunity for an artist’s POP project.  Fortunately Tracey knew of a  garden project ready to go (it was proposed for POP originally but did not get included in the pilot series), Shale approved the budget and everyone swung into action.

Last Saturday we were able to check out how the site has been transformed into Hauroa Garden. We always need to be careful about not ending up with unallocated budget at the end of the financial year(another criticism of council!). However I think in this case it has been a happy find that has brought about a spontaneous, creative collaboration involving artists, sponsors and volunteers that will provide long term benefits.

Hauora Garden by Auckland-based artists Richard Orjis and A.D. Schierning is an interactive and sensory space that aims to reconnect urban dwellers with the natural world. It will end up including Rongoā Māori, introduced medicinal, edible and endangered native plants.  Many of the materials found on the section have been recycled into the garden design.

Many thanks to Lynda and Tracey for the Art of the Possible and all those involved: House of Hauora Garden Bec StanleyBotanica, Colleen Brennan, Michelle de Clay, Kerrie Van Heerden, Claudia Jowitt, Daddy and the Dames, Donna Kerridge, Richard Orjis, Wednesday Night Pottery, Amiria Puia-Taylor, AD Schierning, Bec Stanley, Bonni Tamati, Imogen Taylor, The Little Caterer, H.E.P.T, CVNZ Volunteers, The Watkins, Char Wiapo and Generation Zero.

Supported by Treescape, Resene, Studio Art Supplies, Mace Contractors Ltd and Uru Whakaaro Ltd

Hauora on Facebook

Hauora Gardens reviewed by Janet McAllister for the Weekend Herald Art matters column

Regional support for Community Gardens – presentation to the governing body

Presentation given to the Environment and Sustainability Forum on 20 September 2011. The Chair, Cr Wayne Walker is an enthusiastic supporter of community gardens.

Kia Ora Koutou Katoa

Thank you Chair and Councillors for the opportunity to speak to the Forum this afternoon.  It is very exciting that you have the Community Garden report on your agenda under item 12. I am here today to speak in support of the report and to encourage the governing body to take an active approach to community gardens across the Auckland region. 

Hopefully you know me as Deputy Chair of the Waitemata Local Board. I have portfolio responsibilities for Transport, Libraries and Community. I am also able to provide an additional comment to the report wearing various hats:

  •     I am trustee of the Kelmarna Community Garden Trust
  •     A steering Committee member of Grey Lynn 2030 – transition community; and
  •     Chair of the Grey Lynn Farmers Market Management Committee

In these roles I see the value and benefits of community gardens every day.

Kelmarna Organic City Farm has just celebrated 30 years of existence on a block of Council owned land in Herne Bay that borders Cox’s Bay. The objects of the Trust are as relevant today as when first adopted by the trustees in 1981. In particular:

    •  To maintain Kelmarna Gardens as a community research and demonstration resource promoting self-sufficiency using organic horticultural techniques
    • To encourage the use of waste or marginal land for the recycling of community organic wastes and the growing of food to promote better nutrition, education, employment and beautification of the environment

    Framework Trust manages the gardens providing opportunities for educational gardening for mental health clients in a tranquil and therapeutic green-space.  Issues for the garden going forward include funding for basic facilities on site and providing the surrounding neighbourhood with a sense of ownership to a unique rural space right in the city. I invite you to visit the gardens if you are not familiar with the area.

Mentioned in your report is Transition Towns as one of the key organisations engaged with community gardens. There are over 50 transition town groups like Grey Lynn 2030 across NZ. In Auckland in addition to Devonport TT that is mentioned in the report there is Mt Eden Village people, Pt Chev and new group in the process of forming in Kingsland. Grey Lynn 2030 is about creating sustainable, resilient, vibrant communities through positive, practical action.

A really good example of practical action under the umbrella of Grey Lynn 2030 is the Wilton Street Gardens. Sarah Guppy from the garden has already given her own presentation but just to mention that many of the images (taken by chief gardener Mandy McMullin)  are of progress of the garden from an over grown vacant section  to a productive wee oasis off Richmond Road which  acts as a hub for the community especially the surrounding neighbours. The gardens also provide a community composting facility. The gardens are on private land, run by volunteers and have received small amounts of Council funding

 Another of our local gardeners here today is Fionna Hill from the Grey Lynn Community Garden nestled behind St Columba Church on Surrey Crescent. These gardens offer a more allotment style of gardening for individuals who commit to the garden. 

What I particular value about both gardens is that excess produce often ends up on the community trading table at the Grey Lynn Farmers Market. The table is available for a small fee for locals to sell excess produce from their gardens.   Similar to a road side stall with honesty boxes, the table is a hugely popular, unique aspect of the GLFM that is part of the overall linkages of urban food production (as a side note I mention that our trading table is under treat due to the Food Bill)

There is an initial stocktake table on p17 Attachment A of your report . I can also add Grafton Community Garden which has recently established in the grounds of Grafton Hall. What you will find is that very often community gardens spring up under the radar with quiet doers who just want to get on with the job of food production on spare land.  There would also be more gardens within the Waitemata Local Board area if we didn’t have so much soil contamination issues. For example a group trying to establish a garden in Freeman’s Bay gave up after soil testing and a community orchard in West Lynn was also abandoned because of concerns about contamination.

Following on from that community overview,  I would like to end with the Waitemata Local Board’s perspective. In June the Wilton Street gardeners spoke to us at our local board meeting. We moved

b) That the Board notes the benefits provided by community gardens and supports the principle of community gardens.

c) That this resolution be forwarded to the Environmental and Sustainability Forum of the Governing Body for consideration.

I’d also like to highlight the wording we are currently finalising in our local board plan. You have the community garden elements of each draft local board in Attachment G at p33. However the Waitemata Local Board goes somewhat further with an Urban Food Production section. I would like to read this out as I think it sums up very clear out position on community gardens

Community gardens, roof top gardens and fruit trees in public places are growing in popularity, as a response to the challenges of climate change, food security and rising food costs. They provide opportunities to grow and eat fresh fruit and vegetables, particularly for people living in high-density urban areas with little or no garden space of their own. Community gardens are also a great way for our communities to get to know each other and work together. We will support projects and initiatives in our area identified by our community. We will also increase planting of fruit trees in our parks, berms and public open spaces.

We included specific reference to food security in this section after hearing submissions on our plan.

One of our key initiatives:  Support an urban food economy through community gardens and fruit trees in parks and public open spaces

Going forward I see Council support for community garden activity in a number of ways that supports this grass roots community activity that brings so many benefits. For example identifying land available,  undertaking soil testing, local composting within the waste minimisation strategy and promoting the benefits of volunteering

Therefore I commend you Mr Chair on the steps taken so to raise awareness about community gardens at governing body level and ask for the Forum’s support for the actions arising out of the report

Thank you for this opportunity to talk to you today. I am happy to answer any questions


Educated at Auckland Girls’ Equipped for the World

Congratulations to all the girls who won prizes and awards at the AGGS Senior Prizegiving today.

I was very proud to be there as an AGGS Old Girl and representative of the Waitemata Local Board to award the Western Bays Community Board School Textbook Grant of $400.

After a break of 25 years I’ve managed to sing the school song twice in one week! On 4 November I was guest speaker at the Old Girls’ annual dinner.

Speech to the Auckland Girls’ Grammar School Old Girls’ Association Annual Dinner

Madam President, members of the committee, Principal of AGGS Liz Thomson, Past Principal, Charmaine Pountney, Dawn Jones, Chair Old Girls’ Trust, Dame Dorothy, absent friends and of course Old Girls’ I’d like to acknowledge you all this evening. I also acknowledge my partner’s grandmother Freda Kirkwood (nee Barnes) who at 102 must be one of the oldest Old Girls and unfortunately couldn’t make it this evening but I am delighted that her daughter and Old Girl Anne Shortland (nee Kirkwood) is here.

I feel incredibly honoured to be your guest speaker, especially when I think of the many AGGS Old Girls who have achieved so much and have so many interesting stories to tell. Thank you for the invitation.

I have been billed as “Pippa Coom, Corporate Lawyer, Environmentalist and AGGS Old Girl”. I can only really claim to be one of those things at the moment. I wear a number of hats and as of last night I became the deputy chairperson of the Waitemata Local Board. It is an exciting time to have entered local politics with a new structure of governance that if we can make work will provide for real decision making at a local level. The Local Board will be like a mini – Council providing a strong local voice within the Auckland Council with wide ranging responsibilities.

The Waitemata Ward is at the centre of the new city of Auckland. It is a vibrant, historic area, which I found out last night (from the speech given by the new Chair of the Waitemata Local Board) represented the whole area of Auckland City up until WW1.

And of course located at the heart of the Ward is our school. The history of Auckland is reflected in the history of Auckland Girls’ Grammar since its foundation in 1888. A school that has led the way in provided education to young woman.

I live in Grey Lynn and most days will pass by AGGS when I’m out and about – I’m pretty much guaranteed to be travelling by bicycle.

Seeing the school so often on my travels does mean that I frequently find myself reflecting on my time at AGGS and more recently thinking about how I can now serve my school as part of my community.

I came to Auckland Girls via Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. Before we immigrated in 1982 my mum had decided that she would like to live in an older suburb like Ponsonby and bought a map of Auckland so we could see where our new home was located. I immediately spotted Auckland Girls’ Grammar School on the map and decided that was the school for me. I didn’t need to know anything about the school other than that there were going to be no boys! I couldn’t wait to leave behind the bullying boys from my local comprehensive in the UK.

Almost before we had recovered from jet lag we came to visit the school and my decision was sealed as I walked into the hall. I loved the grandeur and sense of history. My first lesson in what it means to be New Zealander was at my interview with Charmaine Pountney. She described the impressive multicultural make up of the school and explained there were about 48% Pacific Island and Maori students and 52% European girls. At the time I, as an English girl, who certainly wasn’t a European as they all came from the Continent, couldn’t understand how there could be so many cultured German and French “European” girls at the School!

I hope today you are hearing a Kiwi accent as from my first day in class my new friends taught be to talk proper Kiwi starting with my name – I really didn’t want to keep getting called Pepper, as I pronounced it.

I feel really fortunate that my formative education was in NZ and not limited by class and social demographics of the UK.  Even in the mid 80’s (which now seems like a really conservative and old fashioned time) we took it for granted that we could continue our education as far as we wished and that our career options were limitless. We were the generation of “Girls can do anything.” We also took it for granted that our careers would fit alongside married life and children. We never imaged that we would be having children in our 40’s let alone that it was even possible! I say “we” but for me I’m just still waiting for Anne’s son to agree to become my second husband!

I appreciate now that our ability to have real life choices and amazing opportunities were hard won by previous generations and that we were fortunate to be part of a school community that gave us a liberal education, that emphasised our independence, valued social justice and instilled in us a strong moral compass. For me I was also personally enriched by strong friendships and lasting networks that are continuing to bring new connections.

Auckland Girls encouraged me to get involved with my school and wider community and I’m sure first sowed the seed that in the future I would in some way serve my community. For me that included the Old Girls’ Association at a time preparations were underway for the School centenary in 1988 and in the formation of the first Auckland City Youth Council. There were opportunities to be engaged on serious issues like nuclear free NZ and the anti-apartheid movement.

(As  Liz Thomson reported  in her Principal’s address the motto of AGGS is now “Educated at AGGS Equipped for the World”. How true this is when I think of the many friends I had at school that benefited from exchange programmes like AFS and Rotary, or whose study and careers took on a strong global focus. I was encouraged to go on AFS to Peru for my last year of school. I am very grateful for that experience which had a huge influence on what I would study at University and my career choices)

I feel embarrassed to be described as an “environmentalist” as to me that is someone who has spent a life time actively fighting for environmental causes and saving whales.

I have to admit that it was only after being made redundant at the beginning of last year from my job as a Corporate Lawyer that I have found my sense of purpose in working towards a sustainable future. Since then I have been what could be called a  “Community Organiser” for Grey Lynn 2030, the Grey Lynn Farmers Market, Cycle Action Auckland and on climate action events.

I’m impressed that many of the passionate, articulate activists that I meet as part of my new career are AGGS old girls like Rachel Dobric, part of the NZ Youth Delegation going to the UN Climate Change talks in Mexico, who is here this evening.

It was reported in the NZ Herald today that I arrived at the first meeting of the Waitemata Local Board on my bicycle. It may not surprise you to know that I used to cycle to school along Ponsonby Road. My dad fixed a clip to my Healing 10 speed so I could attach my skirt to stop it blowing around. I think I had stopped cycling by the 5th form when it was far too uncool and I didn’t really get on a bike again until I returned to Auckland 5 years ago after an almost 20 year absence.

I don’t think I have ever seen an AGGS girl on a bicycle (I must admit I was the only one in the early 80’s). But I am hoping that will change – Frocks on Bikes, a group I co-coordinate in Auckland is working to show women that it is possible to look stylish on a bike so maybe girls will start thinking cycling to school is in fact cool!

I’m excited that our new Mayor Len Brown has a vision to make Auckland the most liveable city in the world. For me a big part of achieving that goal is for local schools to be the number one choice of parents in the area and that every student  is able to walk and cycle to school.

I really look forward to working with the school community again and building on the strong history of the school. I’ve been away from the fold for far too long.

I also make a commitment to the sustainable future of the Old Girls’ Association and finding ways in which Old Girls who don’t yet feel “old” can still make a significant contribution to the school community.

(And I can start right here with a call out to past students to become a member of the AGGS Old Girls Association. Details here)

Day after the super city election-a huge global working bee

It is hard to imagine getting up for a huge working bee the day after the election on 9 October. Hopefully I will have a big hangover from celebrating the election of Mayor Len Brown, Councillor Mike Lee and the whole City Vision team.  But global action has to happen on climate change with communities not waiting for elected representatives to take the lead in looking for solutions.

That’s why I’m part of the team organising the 350 Big Bike Fix Up for 10/10/10.   We would love to fix up all the thousands of broken bikes in Auckland and get them on the road so that we can look forward to a future that is healthy, sustainable and fun.

It is going to be a huge day!

350 Big Bike Fix-up
Let’s get Auckland’s bikes out of storage, fixed up and on the road ready for a summer of cycling.

Between 10am and 4pm on Sunday 10th October get your bike going at Shed 1, 101 Halsey Street on Auckland’s stunning Viaduct Harbour.

Pro-mechanics, Tumeke Cycle Space (Auckland’s community run bike workshop) and a team of volunteers will be there to fix-up every kind of bike. Once your bike is fixed up, give it a polish at the clean-up station, deck it out (for the kids) and join a leisurely bike ride to Queen’s Wharf.

Unwanted bikes will be fixed up and donated to Refugee Services Auckland. Bring parts to swap too.

In fact doesn’t matter what state your wheels are in – just come down to the Shed to enjoy all day entertainment and a full programme of workshops in bike skills and cycling training.

Vege sausage sizzle and refreshments available at the venue in support of the Grey Lynn School cycle trail project.

Have you got bike fix-up skills to offer? (from basic to pro) please contact Alex at  The Tumeke Cycle Space team are coordinating the fix-up stations at the shed.

Big Bike Fix-Up Workshop programme

Biking from A to B in the city is easy and quick, not to mention fun. But you might have questions, like: what kind of bike should I ride? where should I ride on the road? what if I get a puncture? do I need a basket, pannier bag or backpack? The 350 Big Bike Fix Up day includes a series of workshops to give you some basic information and skills to make your biking comfortable, safe and trouble-free.

And if you can’t make a workshop, volunteers will be there throughout the day to answer your questions, and offer practical advice and help.

Riding tips and skills workshops (*times subject to change on the day)
10am   Getting comfortable on your bike
11am   Puncture! How to change a tyre (and avoid more flats)
12pm   Keep on riding: basic bike maintenance
1pm     Lil’ riders: cycling skills for kids and their parents
2pm     Which bike is the right one for me?
3pm     City slickers: skills and tips for urban riding

Take a city bike for a test ride!
Get a feel for riding a city bike with Nextbikes

Get your bike feeling right
Does your bike give you sore knees or wrists? Or irritate more tender parts?
One-on-one consultations throughout the day with bike-fit expert to make sure you’re comfortable on your bike (from 11am)

Would you like to help with a workshop or share your advice and skills? Please contact Susan Potter if you’d like to help for part or all of the day.

Big Bike Fix-up Bike Rides
Leisurely bike rides for fixed up (and decked out) bicycles departing 11am, 1pm and 3pm from Shed 1 to Queen’s Wharf return via the Viaduct cyclepath

Bike Fix -ups are also happening in Christchurch and Wellington details are here

Make a day of 10/10/10 by bike
Also at Shed 1 Get Growing Auckland – showing Aucklanders how easy and enjoyable urban gardening can be
Devonport – HANDS On sustainable living skills fair
Mt Eden  – Community Garden Working Bee

Across New Zealand and around the globe, on 10/10/10 communities will be taking climate action. From bike fix-ups to community gardens, home insulation to tree planting ….By getting to work we’ll show our leaders the world is ready for climate solutions.  Find out more about the Global Working Bee here

Online Community Management at Wordcamp

Since joining the Steering Committee of Grey Lynn 2030 18 months ago I have been impressively up-skilled.  I put in a lot of voluntary hours into Grey Lynn 2030 but have been rewarded many times over through learning and networking opportunities, contact with inspiring people and a range of new skills. In particular I have been serving my apprenticeship in online community management.  Suzanne Kendrick and Jason Kemp have been wonderful trainers in the dynamics of social media and how it can be used as an effective tool to further the aims of a community group.

Jason is the technical guru behind the Grey Lynn 2030 website (currently organising Wordcamp) and Suzanne, Grey Lynn 2030 steering committee member (“internet original”), was the driving force to get the website established and working effectively to build a large supporter base. In a short time I’ve gone from a deluded critic of Facebook, twitter and blogging to fully embrace these tools. The conversion came for me once I understood that social media isn’t just about communicating mindless information with close friends but is another means of broadcasting through which it is possible to build an online community that translates into real results. Grey Lynn 2030 is now connected to over 1200 people on Facebook and Twitter with many more linked through our website. We have these “friends” because they are interested in what we communicate, want to support us in pursuit of our vision of a sustainable community and like to know that they can join in and take action too.

I am still very much a novice and have lots to learn about the online world so I feel very privileged that I have been asked to speak at Wordcamp with Suzanne about Grey Lynn 2030’s online community management. WordCamp New Zealand is a 2 day conference focusing on and around the WordPress platform. It is a global event that was held 49 times last year everywhere from California to China. I’m looking forward to being part of this exciting event (definitely not just for IT geeks!) and sharing the online story of  Grey Lynn 2030.

AECT Election: The Power is With the Community

Press Release: Grey Lynn 2030

28 October 2009

With only 2 days remaining in the AECT election a disappointing 14.65% of eligible voters have so far returned postal ballots to decide the 5 trustees of the Trust. At the same time in the 2003 election the turnout was only slightly better at 17.5%. Independent Candidate Pippa Coom, a lawyer who previously worked at Vector, visited nearly the whole Trust area over the course of her campaign and found a high level of ignorance about the Trust and very little awareness about the election.

“The election has given me the opportunity to attend community meetings all over Manukau City. It has convinced me that you can’t beat face to face communication with the beneficiaries of the Trust. I have been overwhelmed by the warm reception I have received and if elected will be heading straight back to South Auckland to start a conversation about what the community could best do with the $98m dividend”

“I feel very fortunate to have been made redundant from Vector at the beginning of the year. Without that push I would not have thrown myself into working for the transition town movement through Grey Lynn 2030 nor with the support of Grey Lynn 2030 pursued the idea to run as an independent candidate with aim of putting community into the Trust and setting a sustainable direction for Vector.” said Ms Coom

Suzanne Kendrick, steering committee member has really seen Grey Lynn 2030 grow from strength to strength in the first year of the group. “In only one year we have achieved so much through practical action in our community. We now have about 800 supporters on our contact list. The Grey Lynn Farmers Market is one of our biggest success stories. From one of our monthly meetings volunteers got together to make it happen and after 8 weeks of being open, the market is hugely popular for locals and is already running at a profit. We have other groups focusing on stream restoration, minimising waste, community gardens, traffic calming – all through a shared positive vision to make our community sustainable.” said Ms Kendrick

“If Pippa gets elected – and if the feedback I am receiving is anything to go by it is looking very likely that she will become a new trustee – it will be fantastic way to celebrate Grey Lynn 2030’s first anniversary. It will really show what can be achieved in the community when a group of people decide to make an idea a reality – after all it all comes back to us as a community, we have to appreciate how much power is in the hands of the community if people get into action” said Ms Kendrick.