Mount community garden turns five

Lawrie Gibbons and Melissa Cox. Video and photos by Rosalie Liddle Crawford.

Click the image above to watch the video

There were a lot of smiles and laughter at the Mount Maunganui Community Garden birthday party.

Celebrating five years since its opening, members of the community garden gathered for morning tea on Sunday, the presentation of a prestigious environment award and a catch-up with each other.

Community garden president Lawrie Gibbons welcomed everyone to the birthday celebration, with a special welcome to Tauranga City Councillor Catherine Stewart, Tauranga Parks Asset Co-ordinator Christine Wildhaber, City Arborist Phill Lodge, and the large contingent of Mount Lions Club members.

Lawrie and past-president Anne Ball, who is a founding member, also acknowledged Daltons, Farmlands, Harcourts, and Palmers, which have all sponsored and supported the garden.

“I think everyone involved should be really proud of what we’ve managed to create,” says Anne. “We call this our small slice of paradise. It’s been a huge amount of work but the rewards have been immense.”

Anne also acknowledged the work of the committee, both past and present, and the way members had embraced the ‘number 8 wire’ mentality towards building and fixing anything.

“The real engine of success of any organisation is the committee,” says Anne. “I admire your passion, knowledge, enthusiasm and support of you all in helping steer the gardens.”

David Peart from the Mount Lions Club outlined some of the history behind the development of the community garden. 

“Leigh (Pettigrew) told me I only had three minutes,” jokes David, “and after that a siren would go off, and after five minutes I’m going to get a bucket of water thrown on me. So I told him I’m going to get wet and you’re going to get deaf.”

He recounted the story of how the idea for a community garden was born. Some of the Lions Club members went across to view the Otumoetai Community Garden, and came back with the decision that it needed further investigation.

“Then we had to look for a site,” says David. “That was challenging. We needed some land that wasn’t being used to its best at the time. We considered Coronation Park and then we came here to May Street and thought it was ideal. The Council was talking about selling it at the time. We liked what we saw but they said you better go and look at other places as well.

“We went to Moa Park but decided that it was being used by the community a lot more than this piece was, and also it was much more exposed so wasn’t really an ideal site for a garden.”

The Mount Lions Club had to survey the community a few times to ascertain whether they idea for a community garden would be accepted.

“At the time people thought this was going to be sold by council and built on, and the surrounding house owners felt quite precious about holding on to green space,” says David. “Cities don’t hold on to green spaces very well.”

After more surveys and delivering leaflets, the club finally received the go-ahead to establish the garden at May Street.

“We did another community leaflet drop and survey, and in that we asked two questions. One – would you support a garden here? And two – would you become part of a committee to run it? I think we got 60-odd responses. Twenty-eight people were willing to help or be part of it.”

“We had great support,” recalls David. “Then we had the Rena disaster. A lot of the timber here came off the Rena, was treated by Council and then given back to us as a community. Our club told the garden committee we’ll put up $10,000 towards the development if it’s needed. But it was never needed.”

At this point in David’s telling of the story of the garden development, Lawrie Gibbons interjected with “Oh we DO need it!”  Everyone laughed.

“Sorry!” laughed David. “The time’s gone!” He then went on to say that the only cost to the Lions Club apart from labour and ideas, is a small bronze Lions’ plaque attached to the front pergola entrance way.

The Mount Lions Club recently received the District 202 Lions award for the Environment for 2018.

“One of the crowning glories for our Lions club was to receive on your behalf at the Lions District Convention this wonderful award,” says David, who has recently relinquished his own plot at the community garden after five years. David presented the award to Lawrie as president of the Mount Community Garden, on behalf of the Lions 202L.

The presentation of the award and brief speeches were held at the far southern end of the garden, near a green shed.

“This end of the garden used to be the original croquet ground,” says Anne, who was speaking on behalf of the founding members. “And this was one of the original sheds that we rescued. It was going to the dump. I spotted it and spoke nicely to Leigh, who cursed and swore and then with others brought it down the side and placed it here.”

There’s clearly quite a lot of banter between the members and the morning was imbued with laughter.

“I’ve always been an avid gardener,” says Anne. “When we moved to the Mount just over seven years ago, I wondered how I’d cope living in an apartment with a few pots on the deck. Luckily the Lions did the pamphlet drop not long after we arrived so we were one of the couples who put our name forward for a plot. Many others responded too, and the MCG was created.

“For us personally it was an amazing way to integrate into the community. We had a holiday home and then became residents and that’s a big difference. The MCG is not just about growing and sharing vegetables, it’s also about meeting new people, nurturing new friendships, as well as being part of creating a really special community asset.”

The speeches were followed by the cutting of a birthday cake, photos taken of the founding committee and the current committee, and morning tea. 

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Posted on 09-05-2018 10:23 | By Murray.Guy

Was at the official opening. A great occasion the builds communities. Captured it here: