In the heart of Auck­land, there is a gar­den that’s home to more than 400 species of plants and trees, some rel­a­tively rare. Since 2011, the Sanc­tu­ary Mahi Whenua has been tended by an en­thu­si­as­tic group of vol­un­teers. But now this gar­den is un­der threat as the land it oc­cu­pies is owned by Unitec In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy and may be sold for hous­ing.

“All we can say at the mo­ment is that the fu­ture is un­cer­tain,” says re­tired en­to­mol­o­gist Trevor Crosby, who is de­ter­mined to do what he can to save what he de­scribes as, “a hid­den bio­di­ver­sity jewel of Auck­land.”

Trevor isn’t against de­vel­op­ment but ar­gues that cities also need open spa­ces where na­ture can thrive, and this site is sig­nif­i­cant. “It’s not just that it’s a gar­den. It’s one of the first mul­ti­layer food forests in Auck­land and was set up as an ex­am­ple of what could be done through­out New Zealand. Also, it has cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance. Maori gar­den­ing arte­facts have been found, so we know ku­mara was grown here in pre-Euro­pean times and we’re do­ing the same to­day.”

Since he re­tired, the Sanc­tu­ary has be­come an in­creas­ingly spe­cial place for Trevor, and drum­ming up sup­port to save it has been his fo­cus since he learned of Unitec’s plans back in March.

“I’m just trying to do my bit to say we can’t let it be bull­dozed out of ex­is­tence.”

Trevor wants to let Auck­lan­ders know there’s a lot worth keeping here, and so as well as ac­tively work­ing in the gar­den it­self sev­eral days a week, he’s been in­volved in cre­at­ing a web­site (sanc­tu­aryu­nitec.gar­den) for sup­port­ers and there are plans for a pe­ti­tion.

“There’s so much pres­sure on open spa­ces,” he says. “But from a com­mu­nity point of view, the Sanc­tu­ary is valu­able. It’s so well-es­tab­lished and we’d be re­ally dis­ap­pointed if it ended up be­ing wiped out. What we’re say­ing is, why do away with a gem when you don’t have to.”

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