Gareth West who works at Stokes Valley Koraunui Hub is a community champion. His love of gardening and fresh food led him to set up Awakairangi Garden Blitz, a community initiative where people come together to build a backyard vegetable garden in an afternoon.

The goal is to create a network of māra kai around Lower Hutt, making fruit and vegetables more accessible. For many it may be the first time they have done any gardening so it is also a learning exercise and grows the collective skills and knowledge required to make these gardens successful and sustainable.

Gareth says, “To me the most important thing about the initiative is giving people the opportunity to have their own vegetable garden and support a network of people around them who can help them to make it flourish”.
There is no cost to the homeowner and when you help out at two garden blitzes you become eligible to have a garden built at your home. Garden Blitz also has an agreement with Housing New Zealand that allows tenants to build gardens on Housing New Zealand properties.

Before and after photos of a garden built in Shackleton Grove, Stokes Valley on 22 September.

There has been a blitz a month since September and it has been a true team effort, with support and materials provided by partners. Awakairangi Garden Blitz is Turning the Tide towards a healthier Lower Hutt by enabling people to grow their own healthy kai in their backyards. Community gardening initiatives are springing up all over the country. It’s great to see Lower Hutt joining the fold.

Healthy Families Waitakere and Healthy Families Rotorua have both been involved in the My Backyard Garden Project. In Waitakere more than 140 raised vegetable gardens have been installed in family backyards, schools, community houses and workplaces. Rotorua has 66 backyard gardens, eight of those are at Early Childhood/Kohanga Reo centres.

If you are interested in being part of this initiative contact Gareth West at the Stokes Valley Koraunui Hub.