Planting bio-corridors on the berms

berm guerilla garden Richmond roadA Grey Lynn 2030 project

Spring is here and the grass is growing. Around our neighbourhoods the berms (grass verges) are looking either very shabby or immaculately well kept. This is because from 1 July Auckland Council stopped mowing the grass and the service has been brought into line with the old council areas of North Shore, Waitakere and Manukau (saving ratepayers

around $3m per year). Officially we are now all “responsible” for taking care of the berms adjacent to our properties with some exceptions. The details are on the Auckland Transport website.

Many residents prefer to maintain “their” berms as they can do a much better job than the contractors. It is also an opportunity for neighbourly interactions and to look out for elderly residents. A few years ago Grey Lynn 2030 started a project to create bio- corridors on the berms. We think the new mowing arrangements are a perfect opportunity to revive this project for the benefit of the environment and our community.

The goal is to create a beautiful and diverse urban landscape that supports a rich mix of flora and fauna; where nature is visible and celebrated; with streets where people, plants, birds, bees and insects flourish. By thinking about the berm as a “bio-corridor” we will end up with beautiful streetscapes; a perfect habitat for birds, bees, native invertebrates (such as lizards) and urban insects. Berms that are planted with suitable species support local pollination and bird life, reduce stormwater runoff and soil erosion, improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

If residents start taking responsibility for planting and maintaining the berm outside their own house it is hoped that over time gardens will form a continuous corridor in any street. In the same way as the Franklin Rd Christmas lights, each house will have a different garden but together they will form a congruous whole. The gardens combined will be visually stunning and create a cohesive landscape that is pleasant to walk and play in.

Grey Lynn 2030 encourages you to only plant what you are willing to take responsibility for and to avoid trees and structures. Ideal plants include hardy, low maintenance, flowering perennials and small shrubs. Native plants provide habitat and food for native flora and

fauna. All year round flowering plants are ideal for bees. For example; lavender, hebe, native grasses, pohuehue (muehlenbeckia) manuka, swan plants, wild flowers, borage, nasturtium and comfrey.

If in doubt contact Auckland Transport and stick to the following guidelines for planting on berms:

  • Only low-level planting should be used. This should not impede pedestrians, restrict visibility or create a safety hazard for motorists or cyclists.
  • The planting must not affect the operation of utility services which are often located on the verge.
  • The planting should be maintained regularly.
  • Trees, large boulders, shells and similar, harder landscaping measures should not be used.

While there is some effort involved to start, once established planted berms will be low maintenance and much less work than lawns! We look forward to seeing a whole new urban landscape flourish.

This article was first published in the October edition of Ponsonby News

Sustainable city showcase

 Sustainable Business Network’s impressive showcase is on tomorrow Wednesday November 9th at Shed 10, Queens Wharf

Come to the Sustainable City Showcase any time from 7am to 7pm to check out the latest vision for sustainability.

The days starts at 7am with the Conscious Consumer Commuter Challenge. FREE fairtrade Kokako or Atomic coffee for commuters on foot, bike, boat, bus or train.

Plus delicious sustainable food on sale all day- from Ripe Deli, Cosset, the Library Café, Little Bird, French crepes, Paris Berlin Organic Bakery, organic meat barbecue, mussel fritters, gluten free and vegan food, and a whole Farmers Market to do some early morning shopping.

The event on Facebook
I will be there from dawn to dusk with Frocks on Bikes and Grey Lynn 2030

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


Keeping it local at the Grey Lynn Farmers’ Market

At the  Grey Lynn Farmers’ Market AGM in September I was honoured to be the guest speaker. Here is the speech I gave as a tribute to the market on behalf of Grey Lynn 2030.

I am fortunate to have many opportunities to talk about our community group Grey Lynn 2030. Very often when I mention our name “Grey Lynn 2030” I am met by a blank look and slight incomprehension (what do the numbers mean?).  But when I follow up by saying that Grey Lynn 2030 was the catalyst behind the Grey Lynn Farmers’ Market there is immediate understanding and appreciation – of course there is a farmers market in Grey Lynn! Of course it is connected to the community!

I and the rest of the Grey Lynn 2030 steering committee feel really proud to be associated with the market.  For me the foundation of the market is a perfect example of the way a transition town group can encourage local action and cooperation.

The story of the market’s beginnings needs to be captured for posterity before it slips away and takes on mythical qualities. Here is the version I hope is accurate.

As I’m sure you all know Grey Lynn 2030 is a about creating a sustainable community through practical action. We have monthly participatory meetings – essentially bring your ideas along to create the communities we want to live in and make them happen!

At one of the first meetings Vincent Dickie was present. He understood about the importance of local access to food, eating seasonally and re-skilling the community in urban food production. He put the call out to start a farmers market, formed a team of willing volunteers and within less than a year it was up and running!

As a self styled ambassador for the market I often hear complaints about the market. For example that it is too expensive and crowded (a myth perpetuated by those who came on the first day only or presume the market is a boutique one). The management committee take the brunt of negative comments rather than hearing the appreciation for the market that we know is out there too. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to reflect on and celebrate just how wonderful the market is, the fabulous people associated with it and what the market contributes to our community:

  • For me Sunday doesn’t feel right without a visit to the Market. It is not just about the weekly shop of fresh fruit and veg – it is the social time I have catching up with friends and neighbours. There is no such thing as popping into the market quickly!
  • I love keeping it local. We are lucky to have a market located centrally in our community. We can end our supermarket dependency right here in Grey Lynn.
  • I love the vibrancy of the market and how it acts as a community hub. Take the Tumeke Cycle Space (community bike workshop) now fixing bikes outside the market twice a month. And the story telling. And the busking
  • And of course the people. It is the people of the market that make it happen and keep it functioning so successfully. I thank you all for your hard work, vision and commitment. The management committee, Paul the previous market manager, Judith the administrator and now taking over as manager, the stall holders (they’ve had a hard winter and deserve our support), the Grey Lynn Community Centre, Len the caretaker, the members from the first day of the market and the visitors and shoppers – keep shopping!

I’d like to think that there will be a wide range of community initiatives that will put Grey Lynn 2030 on the map but I don’t think anything will eclipse the Farmers Market anytime soon.

Postscript: At the AGM I joined the management committee and was elected as Chair last night at our first meeting. I look forward to working with the new committee and building on the strong foundations put in place for a successful market by the original team.

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.

Community Independent to stand for City Vision for Waitemata Local Board

I feel very fortunate and privileged to have been selected yesterday to be one of the 7 City Vision Candidates standing for the Waitemata Local Board.

Here is my full speech prepared for the Selection Meeting at the Grey Lynn Community Centre on Saturday 19 June 2010.

I’m Pippa Coom
I’m seeking selection as a community independent with the City Vision team for the Waitemata Local Board.

If I have to give myself a job title it is variously –  a change agent, Community Organiser, a cycling advocate, and a free agent, but what I do is work towards  creating a sustainable community.

Integral to what I can bring to the City Vision Campaign and the role of Local Board Member are the people and places that support me and without whom I am not able to achieve anything.

I would like to acknowledge the Steering Committee of Grey Lynn 2030 and the supporters here today – my sustainability colleagues who share the same vision and are working hard to make it happen.

I acknowledge my friends – my urban whanau whose children motivate me to make my generation accountable so that we don’t compromise their future needs at a time of huge environment, social and economic challenges.

I acknowledge my family – my partner Paul who has given up hoping to live with a domestic goddess, and my mum Barbara who I can thank for my social conscious and social responsibility developed from political action starting in the 70’s and a healthy interest in reading the Guardian newspaper from a young age.

I acknowledge this place the Grey Lynn Community Centre – the heart of so much that goes on in our community and my unofficial office at the Grey Lynn Farmers Market each Sunday.

As far as an immigrant can say they have a turangawaewae in NZ that place for me is the central suburbs of Auckland. The first place I landed in when we came  to NZ from the UK in 1982 was Castle Street across the road. My mum recognised the value of living in older heritage suburbs and before we had even set foot in NZ had decided that our home would be in this area.  I also looked at the map of Auckland and from Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire decided instinctively that Auckland Girls’ Grammar was the school for me .

For 25 years the family home was in Ponsonby (an area now known as the Avenues of Herne Bay) and now all of my NZ family lives in Grey Lynn (yes that is my entire family in NZ of 2).  I must acknowledge my belated dad Mel for having the foresight to buy a house in Grey Lynn 25 years ago where we live now.

I moved away from Auckland for many years – for uni at Otago, travel, career jobs as a lawyer in Wellington, an OE in London – and would often say that I could never live in this city again. A heartless, crass, cowboy town, destroyed by the corporate vandalism of the 80’s. I was convinced that I’d rather freeze through Wellington summers than live in a place without decent public transport, a closed off waterfront, uninspiring urban design, a paucity of leadership with no civic pride.

But what eventually bought me back 4 years ago was the search for a sense of community, the place I could call my own turf and feel passionate enough about to want to make a difference (not to mention the love of good Auckland man and an opportunity to live close to my mum). With perfect synchronicity, when I was looking to get  back into voluntary work after a hedonistic time overseas, I discovered our local transition town group Grey Lynn 2030.

A group with a positive vision of creating a sustainable, vibrant, self resilient community. At its most simple it is about creating the place we want to live.  We don’t just talk about ideas but take action to make them a reality– waste minimisation, community gardens, water way restoration. I am grateful for the freedom Grey Lynn 2030 has given me to pursue a range of projects – traffic calming initiatives, organising a street party, connecting to the local community through a monthly newsletter, bringing the community together at monthly meetings and encouraging sustainable business practices.

I am fortunate that my job is what I am passionate about- thanks to Vector for making me redundant last year and with the support of my partner – I have been able to work full time for Grey Lynn 2030, on climate change awareness campaigns and for Cycle Action Auckland and Frocks on Bikes  – other fabulous groups that have supported me to get on and make things happen –  and more recently on the City Vision campaign committee.

It really is true that if your job is what you are passionate about you never work another day again. As part of the transition town movement we are encouraged to step up into positions of leadership.  To serve on the Local Board, will to some extent be a continuation of what I am doing now as my job. I say this with respect to the elected officials here who know the reality of local government but I feel am ideally placed to represent my local community. It will be my full -time and only  job using many of my current community focused skills not to mention what I consider normal now  – regular meetings, taking every opportunity to network and playing an active role in the community.

I am also hugely excited about the election, the new era of local democracy and the opportunities provided by the new Auckland Council. I feel positive for what will be achieved and full of hope for an Auckland with a progressive Council and new leadership.  I am committed to campaigning for a City Vision Local Board,  Mike Lee getting elected for the Waitemata- Gulf Ward and Len Brown as Mayor.

It is essential that we have strong local boards and people on those boards who are able to take on a huge range of new responsibilities. I am more than ready for that challenge.  I am not looking for this opportunity to spring board to any other position – my focus and aspirations sit with the central suburbs of Auckland that make up the Waitemata Ward and I acknowledge all the communities that make up the ward and aren’t represented here today.

I come to City Vision as a community independent supported by Grey Lynn 2030 – the philosophy and policy of City Vision fits neatly with our vision for our local community.  I would consider it a huge privilege to stand as a candidate with City Vision and if elected to serve my local community on the Waitemata Local Board. I thank you all for your support.

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.