We all know we should eat our fruit and vegetables. But Merivale Community Garden is teaching our community the many benefits of growing them too.
Merivale Community Garden was established back in 2012 when an empty section on the corner of Fraser Street and Alverstoke Road was made available by Housing New Zealand.
Where there once was nothing but a concrete slab and plenty of flax, now is a thriving garden filled with cabbage, kale, silverbeet, butter beans, celery, rhubarb and more.
And it’s not just fruits and vegetables that have grown. Trust and community connection has flourished thanks to the space.
Kevin Newman, Merivale Community Garden volunteer and committee member, says the garden has grown significantly over the years, with even more people using it through the lockdown.
“There was definitely an increase in people using the garden through the lockdown. It’s been great for those who haven’t got much of a garden or anywhere to grow things, or those who don’t have the knowledge and experience of how to do it – they can at least come here. It’s a wonderful place to come, to enjoy the fresh air and fresh, healthy food, close to home.
“We were also so lucky through the lockdown to have a lovely neighbour who tended to the garden, turning it over and clearing a lot. It was a concern as that’s the trouble with something this size – if for any reason it gets neglected it can be really difficult to get it back, so she’s been absolutely brilliant. She and others have done a wonderful job and continue to do so.”
All the fresh produce is organic, and free for the community to take as they need, while workshops and working bees bring people from all walks of life together to get hands dirty to keep the garden, and knowledge, growing.
Kevin says that while they don’t ask for any money like some community gardens, people are good at contributing and taking just what they need.
“When people come along to take some vegetables, they’ll also pull a few weeds, and they’ll just take what they need for dinner that night. We don’t build up much surplus anymore, which is a sign of how successful a venture it is. It’s exactly what we want – people using it.
“It has also built a lot of trust. It’s growing and connecting the community, teaching new skills – not only in gardening, but in helping oneself and one another.”
A food stand sits at the front of the garden, replenished with community donations. The garden also has a close working relationship with the Merivale Community Centre, who provide them access to computers and printing to get the administration side of things sorted.
It has been a big community effort to build the garden to what it is today. Tools, equipment and ongoing development has happened through various fundraising efforts and generous local business sponsorship.
A pizza oven and shelter were added to the site in 2013 by PD workers and local volunteers, irrigation for the garden was funded by Tauranga City Council in 2015, and last year a lockable container was purchased with the help of TECT funding.
The lockable container securely stores and protects the gardening tools and equipment from the weather, rodents and theft.
Kevin says the container was a much-needed replacement for their old shed which was rotten, too small and not secure.
“The container has been absolutely brilliant. We have all the big stuff stored in there, and there is shelving and tables in there which has been so handy – it’s been a real help for us.
“Our old shed was quite small, so we couldn’t get much stuff in there. We got given a whole load of tools by somebody, and while we may have been able to fit them in the shed, we wouldn’t be able to move in there and get them out – so we are very grateful. It’s keeping everything protected and safe.”
TECT Trustee Mark Arundel says trustees were pleased to approve a grant of $1000 toward the cost of the container.
“The Merivale Community Garden is something to be proud of – it’s for the community, cultivated by the community. Their volunteers do an incredible job of maintaining the site and ensuring seasonal fruit and vegetables are available to anyone who needs it. We’re so pleased we could help ensure their tools and equipment can be securely stored, so they can continue doing a wonderful job.”