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Greener Neighbourhoods are growing

So what’s been happening in the Greener Neighbourhoods lately? Yesterday we sent out the December issue of On To ItCouncil’s newsletter on
sustainable living in Kāpiti – which included this update. Apologies to those of you with a sense of déjà vu….

* * * *

And so, the four Greener Neighbourhoods groups are growing, both in size and in their gardens as peak planting season approaches. A rough tally shows we have about 60 households taking part in this round, with new faces appearing each time they meet.

As discussed in their blog entry, residents of GFM (Gavin, Matai and Fincham Rds), Raumati Beach, recently invited Council’s Green Gardener, Hannah Zwartz, to come over and talk composting and worm-farming. At Hilary and John’s place, the group was shown how John creates the ‘black gold’ needed to build up his constantly sinking garden beds (they’re on peat at the bottom of their garden). He also showed them how he drowns the ever-present tradescantia (wandering willie) in a barrel of water before composting it.

At Jake and Rebekah’s the group saw the newly rat-proofed worm bin for kitchen scraps, the weed-eating chickens and Jake’s homemade biodigester. These are great for ‘cooking’ pernicious weeds so they can be returned to the garden, but the chickens are doing such a good job the biodigester has been offered to the neighbours to use.

The group finished up at Matai Reserve where they discussed establishing a community garden in one corner. Hannah offered advice on low maintenance, low water requirement crops that need more room than many suburban backyards can offer, e.g. corn, pumpkins, beans and kamokamo. The group is developing a proposal to submit to Council through the Community Gardens Policy.

GFM is also in discussion with local beekeeper, Pete Mackie, about setting up some collectively-owned hives. Doing this communally is a great way to share the workload, cost and responsibility while members gain experience.

Ocean Square's community garden takes shape.
Ocean Square’s community garden takes shape.

Ocean Square, Paekākāriki, held a planting bee over Labour Weekend. Maureen offered a lovely space for a collective garden, so neighbours got together to plant heaps of vegies and herbs, including tomatoes, sugar-snap peas, corn, climbing beans, cucumbers and lettuces, with herbs and flowers around it all (marjoram, camomile, borage, lemon balm, marigold and cosmos). And then, with perfect timing, the rain fell! Shortly after they held a ‘Warts & All’ garden tour around four neighbouring gardens, including the newly planted community garden.

Their current project is to draft a community map for emergency planning purposes and general community-building (residents opt in and the information is confidential to the group). Gorgeously hand-illustrated, the map will be produced in hard copy and electronic form, giving contact details of people and pets, and listing assets or resources that might be helpful in an emergency, such as water tanks, generators, solar chargers and vegie gardens.

A couple of Otaihanga Greener Neighbourhood residents will be joining them soon at an upcoming workshop to make their own eco-cleaners. And lastly, they’re pleased to announce their application to run a public place recycling trial has been accepted as part of Council’s Waste Minimisation Grants. Drawing on a science fair project conducted by local primary school student, Eli Ward, which looked at the volumes and types of recyclables in public rubbish bins, the trial will encourage the public to put these materials into separate bins to divert them from landfill. More to come in January….

Over in Tilley/Tarawa Precinct, also Paekākāriki, a garden walk-around of about ten people this weekend took in nine different properties. Hannah Zwartz, Council’s Green Gardener, is available for a free general garden consultation for any group of five or more households, with participants often electing to visit more than one garden. In this case, Lesley surveyed her neighbours to find out who was keen for a visit and put together a tightly-coordinated programme of twenty-minute visits. I hear that seeds and seedlings, recipes for sorrel, much advice and general appreciation for the gardens and/or plans were offered and gratefully received.

The walk-around ended with a shared lunch at Tina and Mike’s place. Tina missed the tour but emphasised how valuable it’s been to get together over food:

The more we get together socially, the more engaged we are in the whole process and the more we get to know one another.  Strangers are now becoming friends.  New neighbours have joined us – a family that have moved into the street just a couple of months ago – so it’s a fantastic way for us to meet them and for them to get to know us.

This group also made a successful application to the Waste Minimisation Grants. They will be running a public workshop demonstrating the construction of ‘combination compost bin/worm farm/recycling Pallet Palaces’. These customisable units contain space for composting activities and optional storage for kerbside recycling crates. They can be constructed from recycled pallets but, for a longer life span, macrocarpa will be purchased to build twelve units for group members during the workshop.

Lastly, in Otaihanga a waste minimisation grant will enable all of the participating households to set themselves up with organic waste recycling systems. Whether this is a compost bin, worm farm, bokashi system or food-scrap eating chickens will depend on the type of waste each household is producing. A waste audit workshop with Simon Calcinai, Council’s Waste Minimisation Officer, to look at what a few typical households are throwing out each week, followed a workshop with Hannah to go over the pros and cons of the various systems, will inform the households’ choices.

If you don’t receive the On To It newsletter via email each month, it’s a great way to keep up with events, opportunities and local stories (including an organic gardening column from Green Gardener, Hannah Zwartz). Just email with the subject line ‘Subscribe me’.

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