Light fin­gers dis­may green thumbs

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By EMMA WHITTAKER

Af­ter spend­ing months care­fully cul­ti­vat­ing their veg­eta­bles, com­mu­nity gar­den­ers are be­ing beaten to the har­vest by thieves.

Theft from the Owairaka Com­mu­nity Gar­den is a frus­trat­ingly con­sis­tent prob­lem, gar­dener Gil­lian Dance says.

‘‘Be­cause it is a com­mu­nity gar­den there are peo­ple who think they can help them­selves. If you plant it, you can har­vest it, if you help with the wa­ter­ing and care for it, you can take it. Who is go­ing to take part if peo­ple just come along and take their hard work?’’ Dance says.

The gar­den gives groups and in­di­vid­u­als a place to grow plants and food if they aren’t able to do it at home.

A trust that as­sists peo­ple with men­tal ill­nesses had been grow­ing let­tuces in the gar­den to pro­vide lunches for chil­dren at a nearby school.

Vol­un­teers turned up one morn­ing to find all of the let­tuces had been taken.

‘‘Things like that are a real de­ter­rent for oth­ers want­ing to use it,’’ Dance says.

There has been a gar­den at Owairaka Park for more than a decade. ‘‘It’s a real draw­card.’’ The gar­den serves a num­ber of pur­poses, Dance says.

‘‘It’s an ed­u­ca­tion thing. There are kids who don’t know that peas come in a pod be­cause they’ve only seen frozen peas.

‘‘I saw a mother down here who had six kids who was har­vest­ing sil­ver­beet. I was thrilled,’’ Dance says,

The ini­tial gar­den was in a dif­fer­ent part of the park and was fenced. It was over­seen by a trust. Auck­land Coun­cil is ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble for the cur­rent gar­den but users take care of the plots they’re us­ing, Dance says.

There are plans to put up new signs to ed­u­cate the public and stop the thefts.

‘‘I think the prob­lem can be helped with the signs but it can’t be com­pletely stopped,’’ Dance says.

Gen­er­ally the gar­den well re­spected.

Apart from the thefts, there is rel­a­tively lit­tle van­dal­ism, she says.

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Photo: EMMA WHITTAKER

Stop steal­ing: Gil­lian Dance wants peo­ple to stop tak­ing plants from the Owairaka Com­mu­nity Gar­den.

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