Recap of: Community Garden Network Meeting

Passion flowed last Friday at the Community Garden Network Meeting - a meeting that was described as positive and inspiring.  Over 30 people attended and were invited, by way of introduction, to share what they were passionate about related to community gardening and food.

A desire to get their hands into the soil and contribute, passion to see maara kai thrive at marae, fruit trees in schools and a vision of Hamilton as the friendliest city in the nation and world, were just some of the passions relayed. 

Wiremu Puke then discussed the whakapapa of gardening in Kirikiriroa, and the abundance of maara kai (food gardens) that were observed back in the 1800’s. Maara kai lined the river banks, each area with names that could readily be restored. Some of the remnants of kumara pits are still visible on the St Andrew’s golf course. King Tawhiao, the Second Māori King, had this to say as he passed through Kirikiriroa:

Te Awa o te ora ia piko nui atu te ataahua o te whakamutunga.

Kaa whakawhiti au i te awaawa o Kirikiriroa o ngaa rauwiri i pai ana.

Te renga o ngaa mea pai.

The river of life, each curve more beautiful than the last. Across the smooth belly of Kirikiriroa, its gardens bursting with the fullness of good things.

Tawhiao c- 1825 – 1894 Second Maori King.

Te Parapara, located at Hamilton Gardens, is a replica of these abundant food gardens. Te Parapara is the only garden of its kind in Aoteaora and the world. The palisades that boarder the garden, also help to warm the soil. There is a lot of science involved in the development and operation of maara kai. 

The kowhai trees flower in the spring and they are currently in full bloom throughout our city. Kowhai trees used to line the river banks, and were described by George Angus (1822–1886), a writer, artist and explorer, as a massive yellow and gold wall creating a river that was awash with yellow petals. Wiremu believes that we should look to recreate this beauty and also have a regional holiday that marks this special and unique time of year. Why do we celebrate Auckland anniversary when we can be Waikato proud?!

Following Wiremu, Councillor Mark Bunting spoke about the work he is doing with Avis Leeson to encourage Hamilton City Council’s support for community gardening. Mark believes that Council can be an enabler of community gardening, primarily by providing land for the development of gardens. There has been some concern expressed by Council that over time the community gardens may not be well kept. Council staff are currently writing some community garden guidelines. Councillor Bunting sees connections with schools as a possible way to maintain thriving community gardens. Woodstock, Endeavour and Bankwood Schools are all on his radar for having community gardens adjacent to them. Councillor Bunting believes that Hamilton can be a thriving city of abundant gardens. The network of community garden advocates has an opportunity now to fill the Council galleries in support of Mark’s vision. Exciting!

Last year, we had some discussions with Wiremu and his Auntie about the idea of a tour of the old gardens of Kirikiriroa. This tour could be run in conjunction with a tour of the community gardens that are thriving today. Max Dillon-Coyle suggested that we invite the Mayor and all the Councillors on this tour to build support and understanding. Wiremu and Mark would make fantastic tour guides! Stay tuned as this idea unfolds.

Kyro Selket was unable to attend the meeting to discuss Urban Farming, but there are plans afoot for a meeting in November. The vision is that people within their individual urban sections join together to make a farm. One person can produce honey, another pumpkins, another lettuces and so on. These people can then share, sell, swap and support each other. It’s a beautiful vision and one worth exploring.

A month ago, a group of us took a hikoi to Rotorua and visited with Te Rangikaheke and saw his beautiful gardens. There is a local food network in Rotorua called Kai Rotorua. This network provides a place for local food projects and organisations, including Council and Public Health, to come together. The network shares a goal of promoting local food and developing food sovereignty. 

Te Rangikaheke and Lynette Rogers from The Fairfield Project - inspirational korero!

Te Rangikaheke and Lynette Rogers from The Fairfield Project - inspirational korero!

We will likely organise another network meeting in November to discuss urban farming and a potential local food network. We ran out of time to discuss these last week.

Our meeting concluded with karakia and kai, and this was followed by a tour of the fruit trees in Nawton with Neil and Max from the Western Community Centre. Thanks to them and the community of Nawton, hundreds of houses in Nawton and Nawton’s park are brimming with fruits trees. The children collect feijoas on their way home from school. Good food is growing everywhere and there are plans to plant fruit trees in the neighbouring hoods. Great job Western Community Centre! If you can do it, then other suburbs can too!

In the next two weeks, Chelsey, one of the lead organisers of the last week’s meeting will be calling all the people that attended to get a summary of the project work that they are involved with. This information will then be sent out to the networks and will help everyone to link in with the projects that they are most interested in.

Good meetings can change the world!

Ngaa mihi nui ki a koutou katoa – kapai koutou!


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