Broad smiles all round for organic beans
An organic sanctuary at Unitec has survived restructuring changes but students are wondering who will be around to make their garden grow.
The hortecology sanctuary and organic gardens were started in 1999 and have blossomed with care from horticulture and applied sciences students and lecturers.
But a recent restructuring has seen horticulture cut from Unitec’s study programme, leaving the future of the gardens up in the air.
Originally the gardens were to be scrapped but it has now been decided they will remain.
Lecturer Brendan Hoare helped design and build the gardens, and is among staff leaving as part of the restructure announced earlier this year.
"We may not, but the garden survives on which is great."
When they started the area was thigh-deep in kikuyu grass, he says.
By making a strong ecostructure of waterways and composting, the garden has become completely self-sustaining, he says.
"All things here have a purpose," he says.
Beans, garlic, beetroot, herbs and other vegetables grow in the organic garden, and avocado, plum and other fruit trees feature in the "food forest".
All the produce is certified organic and is sold to local fruit and veggie suppliers or taken home by students.
Mr Hoare says the garden is special because nothing foreign is introduced into the system.
"There is no animal input into the site and the only thing that touches the leaves of our plants is water," he says.
Similarly he says plants which are commonly thought of as pests, such as the poisonous hemlock and wandering jew are encouraged as they provide ground coverage and are good for composting.
Mr Hoare says without horticulture students to tend them, he doesn’t know who will take responsibility for the gardens.
Unitec chief executive Rick Ede says one option is for other providers and private organisations to continue using the gardens for training.
"It’s a fairly unique facility," he says.
"There are very few organic gardens that are there specifically for training purposes."
He says Unitec is beginning negotiations with other service providers which he expects to continue over the next two to three months.
Beginning next year, Unitec will not be taking any more enrolments for the diploma and certificate in horticulture.
The move is part of a wider restructuring which will see about 100 positions at the polytechnic disestablished and 45 new ones created.
Mr Ede says the decision to cut horticulture came after a strategic review of all academic areas which showed the course didn’t meet sufficient criteria.