One of the projects I've set up in my time on the Puketapapa Local Board has been the Puketapapa Garden Web. I have very much enjoyed working on this very low-level community development initiative aimed at supporting those interested in community gardening.
I am not much of a gardener myself, but keen to help others out. There is something quite peaceful and reflective about gardening I find, and weeding can be very cathartic! I joined a group starting up a community garden on some church land near my house to see how this stuff works. Very quickly I found out that the main area of weakness for our area is not so much access to land for gardening but supporting the coordinators and groups who really make community gardening work. So I set about establishing the Puketapapa Garden Web.
We had our very first meeting in May 2012, at the Three Kings Tennis Pavillion on quite a cold dark night, and about 12 hardy souls braved the weather and the uncertainty of what precisely was this Garden Web thing? We worked out where we were all from, where we spent our time, where gardens were or could be set-up, and what people wanted to do next. There were two things to do; 1. set-up some basic communication stuff (a Facebook page, email loop, postal list for those not online) and 2. line up a garden visit for our next get-together.
Both of these were easy for me to do, with a little assistance from Council staff for doing up nice posters and leaflets, and we've kept on keeping on in a similar vein. We have visited three gardens and had a one-year anniversary meeting since then, with our next get-together planned for the end of August.
The impact this has had from my perspective has been both small and large. It has been about helping people to help themselves, helping them to connect with each other and resources, and generally being a source of encouragement and enthusiasm for their really quite wonderful voluntary work gardening with others.
A few stories then, to illustrate the purpose and outcomes of the Web:
B came along to our first visit, to the CCS Disability Action garden in Royal Oak, and there she met Richard from Gardens4Health. Richard put her in touch with his colleague Homer who helped the garden B coordinates, on some wasteland in a light industrial area, set-up a compost system. Composting is one of the four key principles of the Yokoshi style of gardening, so was essential to get them really growing. The Yoko garden then hosted a later Web get-together, and proudly showed off their new compost bins!
A church had some spare land behind their admin building which was overgrown and sloping. They also had a church-member, S, who had recently moved to Auckland, had some spare time, and was keen on gardening. With a bit of help and support S has got together a great group who are transforming the land, and through the Web he has been connected (so far!) with Gardens4Health for seeds, Bunnings Mt Roskill for a donated wheelbarrow and the Mt Eden Village People for some citrus trees. Not only are they growing food that they share with the church community, S has met new people, and feels he is making an important contribution to his new neighbourhood.
A community garden group was struggling after losing their coordinator, and the agency near the land wanted to help to get it going again. Through the Web I was able to get a story in the local paper about their need, with a great photo of the garden itself, and as a result several volunteers came forward; one to offer to coordinate it, and another to line up a special needs unit at a nearby school to come along on a weekly basis and work in the garden. The coordinator works out what needs doing every week and leaves a list for the children who carry it all out, and have now experienced growing their own seedlings for planting into the garden.
There are many other stories too, and hopefully many more to come. You can watch a short (8 minute) clip of me talking about the Puketapapa Garden Web at the Thriving Neighbourhoods Summit in May 2013.