Garden grows a community

Bluff Community Gardens manager Geoff Young thinks the cherry tomatoes will be perfectly ripe for when the neighbouring playcentre children arrive back from holiday.

TUCKED away on the side of Bluff Hill is a flourishing community garden which is having a big impact on the small coastal community.

It was only natural children from the adjoining child care centre added to the garden’s personality with five quirky, child-size scarecrows. The garden is a natural extension of the centre’s playground and doubles as a learning centre for tamariki in the area.

Working on a project which positively impacts the Bluff community is a new joy for Geoff Young since he retired from the Corrections Service.

“The only thing that was here when I arrived was the two tunnel houses and four raised beds.”

The gardens were initially created by the Awarua Runanga to supply the kitchen at Te Rau Aroha Marae, with any surplus going to community families via its child care centre.

Mr Young believed every child should have the opportunity to experience eating fresh peas, strawberries, cherry tomatoes and other vegetables they helped plant, straight from the garden.

The raised beds and tunnel houses hosted a variety of companion-planted produce during most seasons of the year.

The multiple tracks around the site also provide adventures, as do the bridges and waterfalls from the Bluff reservoir creek where kokopu (adult whitebait) and the children’s pet eel have made their home.

The community had been supportive of the project but there had been a couple of incidents where people had destroyed the creek-bed with boulders and killed the hens kept on the property, he said.

“I now have to make sure the hens are locked in to keep them safe,” Mr Young said

Bluff School also frequented the site for some science projects.

A $50,000 funding grant from Rio Tinto, which owns the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter, last year boosted the Awarua Runanga’s ability to support the marae including offering a Cook’ training programme.

Raised garden beds, complete with soil and plants and any advice needed, were gifted to members of the community to help establish vegetable supplies at home.

As a result, 14 families had started to grow their own vegetables, he said.

Establishing the tracks around the property has brought Mr Young a real sense of satisfaction of growing the sanctuary-like environment overlooking the harbour which has developed.

“I always hoped some of the community would come here just to hang out for lunch on the deck.

“I was here the other day and 30-40 wood pigeons flew over. That’s a credit to the Bluff Hill Restoration Group. I’ve never, ever seen that in Bluff.”

He particularly liked how the ethos of the gardens became the link between different sectors of the runanga, marae, childhood centre, school and pensioner flats.

It was hoped the future would include a parcel of land with the opportunity to develop some low-cost rental housing for young people to also connect with the marae.