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Community garden initiative gets nod at first meeting

July 28th
By David Armstrong

The prospect of restarting a Motueka Community Garden project received a huge boost yesterday when a solid group of interested and willing people attending a meeting at the Community House expressed their desire to help make it happen.

The meeting was called by Rob Francis, an environmental educator with Tasman District Council, who chaired the discussion, along with community stalwarts Ron Sharp, Tara Forde and Grant Douglas. It resulted primarily from news of a seeding grant of $5000 from the district health board's nutritional and physical activity programme, which TDC is holding until a management group is set up to run the project.

In addition, the audience learned that several plots of land would be potentially available for the gardens, with a block on Old Wharf Road opposite the Recreation Centre being the most likely candidate because it is well placed and council-owned, and therefore secure into the future.

Sixteen people attended the meeting, some with particular gardening and plant expertise, some keen gardeners, and a few wanting to know more about the community garden concept. In the end, they decided to meet on Sunday August 8th at 1pm at the Old Wharf Road land to check out the site and to establish a steering committee to take the project further.

Discussion centred on the basic questions: Why have a community garden, what would be its uses, who would use it, and how it would be managed. Four potential core activities emerged:

  1. Plots that individuals could develop for their own use (a common British model, as in Coronation Street allotments). This would help people who don't have their own gardens to grow food.
  2. General purpose vegetable and tree growing areas that people would communally take responsibility for by planting, caring for, and harvesting produce, under some form of guidance from coordinators.
  3. An area for children to play in and experience their own plant growing.
  4. An area for staging gardening courses and general education about gardens.

The group saw a wide variety of general benefits, including saving money, eating healthier food, providing a social hub for the community, helping people struggling with the cost of living, passing on knowledge from parents and grandparents to children, promoting Motueka's green image and organic concepts, and promoting cooperative and community spirit.

Key to its success would be a management group and one or more coordinators. Also thrashed out were issues to do with the legal entity of the group, whether it be an incorporated society, a charitable trust, working within the umbrella of some other legal entity such as ATET, or some other arrangement. The steering committee that is to be set up will research these options and start preparing policies and a framework.

The meeting heard about the previous attempt at developing a community garden at Toad Hall in 2005, which sadly closed down for other reasons after two years. It ran under the umbrella of ATET.

Rob Francis said that support from TDC would be strong, because they have always expressed genuine interest in our parks, community gardens, and environmental education.

Discussion forum:
As part of this community initiative, Motueka Online is hosting a forum which anyone can read and into which anyone can contribute their ideas about how best to set up and use a community garden. Visit and view the forum here »

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