Media release:

Thursday 27 October 2022

The opening celebration for the Mairehau Community Garden set the course for the garden’s future.

As the build phase of Mairehau Community Garden is completed,  the teams behind The Green Lab and The Neighbourhood Trust have high hopes for the project’s success, as it is handed to the community to care for and enjoy, at a celebration event on Saturday 5 November 2022. 

The garden features a polytunnel, covered seating area, raised beds, composting station and pollinator-friendly planting. It was designed with the community, led by The Green Lab and The Neighbourhood Trust, with a ‘garden to plate’ vision driving the design. 

The Neighbourhood Trust actively supports Mairehau, St Albans, Shirley and surrounding communities, with development and resilience. They distribute kai boxes to those in need from The Whānau Centre on Nancy Ave. The Green Lab has been working in partnership with The Neighbourhood Trust and their community since 2021, to establish a community garden behind the McFaddens Centre as part of this outreach.

Survey results, focus hui, and kōrero with many stakeholders, informed the landscape design, which was done in collaboration with Gather Landscape Architecture. 

“The feedback was really clear at the outset,”  says The Green Lab’s Director, Khye Hitchcock. “The community wanted a welcoming space that would provide hands-on learning experiences.” 

“There are definitely some experienced gardeners in the community who wish to share their skills with others, which is wonderful. The final design reflects this. The polytunnel will allow for year-round activities.  We’re hoping lots of different groups can come and learn about growing kai here.”

The final plan was signed off by the Community Steering Committee and The Neighbourhood Trust in late March 2022. The build has been underway since May, led by The Green Lab’s Tom Phillpotts, with the participation of many community volunteers.  

One working bee saw 18m3 of fill moved in less than two hours by a group of 17. “It was incredible,” said Tom, “I didn’t expect us to get through it so fast, but everyone really pitched in and got it done.” 

“The commitment of volunteers to this project has been awesome. Paul, John, Storm, and Bill have been on site almost every week,” he said, “John even hired a digger out of his own pocket at one point to help get things moving quickly.” 

Storm and Cara Waiwai created a mural for the neighbouring container on site, supported by The Natural Paint Co. “All of us here at Natural Paint Co are super proud to be The Green Lab’s coating partner,” says Klaus Sulz of The Natural Paint Co. “We just love and feel humbled that talented artists like Storm can blend their skilful work with our products and produce truly amazing artwork like the Mairehau Community Garden project.”

In September, The Green Lab brought Ngaio Cowell and George Sapsford to the project, to lend their skills in permaculture, organic food growing, and building. Ngaio led a seed germination workshop and developed an initial planting plan, and George created compost bins and added a worm farm to the design. The garden has quickly taken shape since. 

“What started as a dream is now a reality,” says Don Benn, Community Development Worker at the Neighbourhood Trust. “The Neighbourhood Trust helps people to get back on their feet through issues such as food insecurity, isolation and the cost of living. This garden is a place for connection, for building relationships with others in the community, for gaining skills in gardening, in cooking in season, and in preserving and bottling food, when we have excess. I’m immensely proud of this project and this place.”

A permanent water supply funded by a donation from Hummingbird Coffee will ensure the garden’s long-term success, “We are excited to be partnering with the good humans at The Green Lab,” says Julie Tarm, Brand Manager at Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE). “They have done incredible work in the community helping to facilitate the regeneration and rebuild of Christchurch. Their latest project, the Mairehau Community Garden, is no exception. We have watched the garden transform into an elaborate display of aesthetically pleasing garden features, raised beds, and calming corners to sit and relax.

”We are thrilled to have a contribution to this fantastic community space, donating $10,000 from our Green Bean Fund to help assist with labour costs, buying plants, and installing a mains water supply – an aspect of the garden that The Green Lab previously didn’t think would be possible, but is crucial in ensuring the garden can survive and thrive!

“Hummingbird’s Green Bean Fund sets aside $1 for every $100 of green coffee beans it buys, and donates this to community initiatives in coffee-growing regions such as Ethiopia and Mexico, as well as our own backyard here in New Zealand.”

The Green Lab & Neighbourhood Trust extend their thanks to the amazing cohort of community volunteers, who have helped shape and build the garden. The project has also had support from a host of community-minded partners, including Christchurch City Council, Canterbury Landscape Supplies; Musgroves; Hire King; St Albans Baptist Church; Blacks Fasteners; CityCare Property; Natural Paint Company; Canterbury Community Gardens Association; Tui Garden Products; Richmond Community Garden; Gather Landscape Architecture; Hummingbird Coffee; Christchurch City Council; Canterbury Rugby and the Waipapa Papanui-Innes-Central Community Board Discretionary Fund. 

The design has been delivered to a high quality, using upcycled materials wherever possible. Non-edible plants are pollinator friendly, and at least 75% of them are endemic to Aotearoa.

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