Broad smiles all round for or­ganic beans

Auckland City Harbour News - - Front Page - By Jo­ce­lyn Rein

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 self­sus­tain­ing, 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.

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Cer­ti­fied or­ganic: The gar­den which sur­vived re­struc­tur­ing at Unitec. Har­vest­ing broad beans, from left: Lec­turer Bren­dan Hoare with stu­dents In­berdir Singh, Dipen Pa­tel, James Vet­toretti and Doris Huang.

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