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.”