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Takapuna community garden finds a temporary home

Flagstaff Team

Helping hands… Rodrigo Vidal (above left) and Samuel Ong, Andrew Mackenzie (right) from Takapuna,
with Rob High (rear) from Devonport take a break at the community garden site next to Toka Puia car park.

A vacant plot of land sandwiched between the Toka Puia car park and another large building in Huron St, Takapuna, is being transformed into a community garden.

Raised beds are on site and a first working bee has been held, but the dream of creating a green oasis is some way away. Garden champion and local resident Andrew Mackenzie says the site is a temporary answer to his quest for a permanent home for a garden which he believes the intensifying area will come to appreciate.

Council property arm Panuku has made the site available and provided the planter boxes from other projects. “We hope to build it up. It’s been in the works for three or four months,” said Mackenzie.

He and his helpers hope residents of nearby apartments will join them in transforming what for now is a barren and bumpy piece of land into an inviting spot to stop for a chat.

Lockdown gave early indication the demand is there, with an unofficial garden springing up on council land by an apartment building on the corner of Anzac St. At its height up to 30 people were involved in the garden plots, tending plants and vegetables. But gaining official permission to continue to use the site was a daunting process.

Because he knew some of the people involved and had experience in setting up community gardens elsewhere in the city, Mackenzie, a structural engineer, became involved to see if he could help. He spoke with the people behind the Forrest Hill Community Garden who spent several years setting up a trust and making a case to obtain Local Board permission to occupy a section of Seine Reserve for their now fruitful project.

In time, Mackenzie wants to follow their example to gain a long-term lease, but for now he says Panuku’s offer will do nicely in testing the waters to prove interest. With more people, like himself, living in apartments and townhouses, he says the demand for shared spaces will only increase.

The social aspect is also important, he says, pointing to the Anzac St guerrilla garden as a place where friendships were made, including a group of six women who formed a walking group that has continued.

During the first working bee this month with a small group of helpers, Mackenzie said passersby showed plenty of interest in what they were doing. He hopes to harness this and would love to see residents of high-rises such as the Sentinel take up the chance to get their fingers in the soil.

The intention is to move the larger planters to the rear of the site. The smaller ones will form a decorative frontage and there are two containers on site for storage. The plan is for produce to be shared rather than the site housing individual allotment beds.

Panuku is also considering using the space – surplus to the car-park construction – for other activities, such as art displays or passive recreation. It is looking at hosting a workshop with community groups to discuss ideas at a date yet to be set.

“The aim is for this to be not just a garden, but a community pop-up activation space,” said Mackenzie. He would like to see murals on the surrounding walls.

In time Panuku may sell the land, but for now Mackenzie says it is great that instead of it being left unused something good can flourish on it.

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