Work over the last seven years to create a commons space to encourage Paekākāriki’s self sufficiency and strengthen community is now a reality with Paekākāriki Orchards and Gardens. This year this local open group secured a four year license to use an acre of land at the northern end of the village for the benefit of the whole Paekākāriki community.
Here’s more on what is happening in our newest community space, with a welcome for you to join in, plus a short history in images and words of the journey it took to get here.
After a one year trial, Paekākāriki Community Orchards and Gardens Group, or POG for short, have secured a longer license with Kāpiti Coast District Council for the use of approximately an acre of undulating land as orchards, gardens and community space. The space runs east to west between the thoroughfare known as the ‘Horse Track’ and the Holiday Park, from the northern end of Tilley Road —with its recently developed sportsfields and weaving whare— to the Wellington Road entrance to Queen Elizabeth Park.
A substantial project is slowly growing through working collectively as a community.
Over six years there has been much planting up of roadside berms with community dinners and picnics thrown, workshops run and produce provided to Paekākāriki. The last two years have seen planting and gathering on this new site alongside community events including a kids’ ‘wild play’.
But this year it feels like things have turned up a notch — towards a longer term vision. After the development of a plan for the land, over winter and spring there’s been the planting of a fledgling orchard, more crop growing and compost making, and many more cups of tea.
The land use is growing, and there’s an open invitation to the community to come and enjoy this land with the group, and assist with its development.
POG are inviting all to come with whānau to enjoy the land and learn more about its vision with a summer celebration, Sunday 1 December (with a gardening bee from 2pm). There will be a walk and talk across the land at 3pm followed by games and planting and a pot luck BBQ and picnic with music from 5pm at the high point of the land, which has now been cleared as a new community gathering area, offering great views.
Following a lot of clearing work over the last year, winter saw the start of Paekākāriki’s first community orchard. The group now have something like five peach, three fig, two plum, two pear, three feijoa, one walnut, three apple and one crabapple in the ground.
Thanks to all the volunteers who continue to contribute to their care, and Stacey Gasson for arranging their purchase.
Paul Hughes has led the beginnings of laying out a network of paths around the site with reasonable grades, which are getting increasingly trodden. Doris Zuur meanwhile has been developing an innovative community-wide composting scheme, with a grant application currently submitted to get a composting station here. A successful ‘lasagne method’ composting workshop was held early in November. With help from Jason Dykes and J K Plumbing, POG added two water tanks to the top of the site, and Albert Ubels has started planning on the building of a garden shed and hothouse.
Over the coming year POG head honcho Cory Hope is driving fruit and nut tree planting, the establishment of a productive composting system, building the shed and the setting up of an all-important outdoor community social space.
Veggie gardening at the site over the last year saw garlic, kamo kamo, courgettes, tomatoes and pumpkins do well but corn not amounting to much! Albert Ubels carved out some great paths in the blackberry patch at the bottom of the site, which meant better access to their juicy deliciousness. POG are currently growing garlic and broad beans (a harvest very popular at a recent market) in the veggie patch and have started a small bed of red mustard by the peach trees which will hopefully set seed establishing a ‘wild’ vege crop for foraging in future seasons. In 2018 at the Tilley Road entrance to the site, apple trees were under-planted with herbs and flowers, creating an attractive and identifiable entrance. Here you will find the POG sign and current compost area.
POG also want to give thanks to neighbours Nik Bullard and Thane Maxwell who allow them to run a hose from their place neighbouring the site to water over the summer months.
Gardening days (Working Bees) are the social backbone of the garden and orchard activities and continue to be well attended. Generally they occur on the first Sunday of every month and anyone can come along to be part of things, no experience necessary. That’s the beauty of building a garden!
In this Cory gives thanks to Hannah Zwartz as head gardener for “her great gardening guidance and keeping gardening things on track at gardening days!”
POG’s St Peter’s Hall monthly market stall continues to be popular and generates a modest but steady income, assisting paying the council license, insurance and buying materials, with Dayll McCahon leading its organisation. Many contribute their own produce or cakes, jam or marmalade to sell at the stall and other group members generously donate their time to help run the stall which, by all accounts, is a lot of fun.
Since a big hardy crew first established a potato patch on the land back in Spring 2017, building up the soil, seasonal events have also been a key part of the community calendar at the gardens with popular picnics.
A giant children’s wildplay session run by Liana Stupples was a memorable school holiday programme in 2018 that helped socialise the site, and led to groups like Playcentre organise play here.
This year a highlight midwinter was a Community Meal held by POG on the 30th June at St Peters Hall, feeding upwards of 80 people. POG hope that this food sharing event becomes a tradition.
Stacey Gasson with regular POG gardener Sam Buchanan organised the event and along with several volunteers, produced food in impressive (yummy) volumes.
Also this year as part of KCDCs community gardening events Cory Hope led a swale workshop at the site, and with the help of 22 or so attendees measured out, levelled, dug, mounded and planted a small demonstration swale at the east end of the site. It’s still there and flourishing!
The Paekākāriki Orchards and Gardens Group began some seven years ago, with its very intention to set up what it has now achieved at the north end of the village. It was about the same time as some other community initiatives, like Paekākāriki 88.2FM, Friends of the Paekākāriki Streams, Paekākāriki Tauhokohoko and the school garden with its Potty Potters were in their infancy (with leadership from founding POGers Tina Pope and Hannah Zwartz).
This coincided with a stronger focus from council on green issues and sustainability with the establishment of a ‘Green Team’. A collective of gardeners and neighbours had already started to gather to work together in nearby Tilley, Haumia and Te Miti Streets to form ‘Kakariki Street’ as part of the inaugural Greener Neighbourhoods programme over the summer of 2010-2011. A community mulcher was purchased at the time (it’s still going!) while other collectives in Paekākāriki followed as part of this programme over further summers.
Flo McNeill was first Chair of POG for the first two years, calling the first meeting to set it up. After the establishment of POG as an entity, first steps were community discussions and then a rash of bermbusting — seeding gardens developed on berms throughout the village by the group with the wider community. They now look like they’ve always been here. They’ve become part of the way we do things.
A monthly market stall to engage with the community was established. 13 fruit trees were planted at the Northern end of Tilley Road, negotiated by Flo with council, and then on 2014 she coordinated the planting of 56 fruit trees around the village berms donated by Koanga Gardens, with compost paid for by POG with funds raised in the regular market stall.
Outside of POG, this led to the Edible Gardens Tour, steered again by Flo, and the fabulous Local Table dining competition for two years, encouraging the local food economy. Early events at the Orchards site included a ‘Weed Walk’ and irrigation workshop with Hannah Zwartz, seed swaps, and shared harvest community meals at the gardens and St Peter’s.
Taking over as POG chair in March 2019 was Cory Hope, filling the shoes of Jayne O’Neill who held and grew things over three years. Jason Dykes has been working as treasurer (there from POG’s infancy), picking up from Stacey Gasson. Doris Zuur has now stepped into this role. Dayll McCahon is our current secretary. Also in the leadership group Hannah Zwartz continues as Garden Guru, Albert Ubels leads building work and weed whacking, while Rachel Benefield is driving fundraising and providing her impressive artistic and organisational skills (the logo and signs are Rachel’s). Jayne O’Neill is on events management and your author Mark Amery continues to assist with comms and events.
Who is missed over POG history?
Which leaves you. This is an orchard and garden space for all to enjoy anytime. Treat it with respect — care, share, grow the maxim goes — and do consider what time you might give. Not all of us have green fingers, but even I can wheel a barrow, enjoying the sunlight and the great company. Come and be part of something only a community can grow.
With thanks to Cory Hope for his assistance with this story.