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