Community garden under threat

LAUREN PRIESTLEY
Last updated 05:00 13/02/2013
Graham Lamont
LAUREN PRIESTLEY/ Fairfax NZ

GARDEN OF GOODWILL: Graham Lamont at the community garden he set up with the Tamaki Housing Group on Taniwha St in Glen Innes.

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Graham Lamont saw people queuing for food at the Auckland City Mission at Christmas time and decided he would do something to help. 

But his community garden, started on an empty site in Taniwha St on December 29 with other members of the Tamaki Housing Group, has drawn the ire of Housing New Zealand.

The land is owned by Housing New Zealand and is part of the Northern Glen Innes Redevelopment Project. 

A state house was removed from the property on July 23. 

Passionfruit, pumpkins, tomatoes, beans, silverbeet, sweetcorn, watermelon, celery, bok choi, spring onions, herbs and flowers have been planted there. 

Lamont said the garden was an answer to hungry mouths and unused land.

''We wanted to utilise the wasted land that's left when people go. Why should it lie bare and empty when there are people queuing up for food?''

The group did not seek Housing New Zealand's permission to use the site. 

Housing New Zealand spokeswoman Marie Winfield said it wants to work with the Tamaki Housing Group to find a more appropriate place for the garden. In 2011 the department worked with the Panmure East Residents Association to develop a vegetable garden.

Winfield could not say when the Taniwha St site would be redeveloped.

''That property and our others in Glen Innes are for housing. Community gardens are very important to the community there but that's not what that land is for,'' she said.

Residents were first notified of the state housing changes in September 2011 and the Tamaki Housing Group has been protesting against it ever since. 

Group member Sue Henry said the garden was about taking a stand in Glen Innes.

''I think the garden is wonderful with so many kids around here not getting enough to eat,'' she said. ''It's a positive thing.''

Lamont agrees: ''We're coming every day and seeing this growing and developing. 

''It's created a lovely meeting place for our community.''

They say the produce will be shared by the group when it is ready to be harvested. 

There are now five garden plots at the site,  planted with donated seeds.

Housing New Zealand employs contractors to maintain its vacant sections while redevelopment plans are being worked on. 

They had plans to level the site in January, effectively demolishing the garden, but the work has not started.

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