I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Supermarket food is expensive, and grown for looks (Western culture operates primarily in the visual domain) and profit rather than nutritional value. Also, the supermarkets have a stranglehold over food retailing, via a cosy duopoly between Foodstuffs and Progressive.
Auckland City Council has resources available, and when I called to ask for help, I was directed to a senior planning officer called John Nash, who had lots more information. He offered advice on the following:
* how to use council land for the gardens (apparently, local parks can be used);
* how to approach community boards, who have the final say;
* maintaining a connection between the garden and the nearby residents/community;
* enhancing the area with the garden;
* talking to the parks adviser, David Barker;
* the bigger view of any project utilising/improving council-owned land, e.g. flowers on verges/berms.
So, the community garden has a way forward. However, there is a far bigger opportunity here. Within New Zealand as a whole there are apparently 12 council-backed community gardens, plus uncounted privately-backed gardens. In my view, if the council is prepared to offer the advice and backing they are, there is the potential for many more gardens, at least in Auckland, if not elsewhere. From talking to John Nash, it appeared very few people know of these opportunities. So, rather than merely setting up another garden, a greater return on our effort may come from getting the message out to potentially interested parties. Who knows how many would be inspired to start their own project, if they had the backing.
I propose putting together a small, informal group who can promote the setup of community gardens in Auckland. Following on from our experiences with setting up the Creative Space, this will require active dissemination of the information: no-one is asking for help, so we have to tell them it’s there. The method we used to publicise the Creative Space was visiting groups who we thought may be interested, and giving a short talk, followed by a Q and A session. The groups we visited were tailored to the subject in hand, e.g.:
* Auckland Linux User Group
* Python User Group
* Arduino User Group
* Cross Street Collective
* Manukau School of Visual Arts
To promote the Community Gardens concept, this list would need to be adjusted. Rotary clubs, Lions clubs, RSAs, The Greens, and other similar local groups.
The approach would be similar though:
* Explain the concept of community gardens;
* Describe how the council can help;
* Describe how we, the Community Gardens Collective, can help with advice.
Each interested party would be expected to do the work themselves of course – the garden must be theirs; our purpose would solely be to promote and advocate for the concept.
Update: apparently, there are 47 community gardens in NZ, of which 16 are in the Auckland region. See here for more