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Awhi Mai Te Atatū community garden flourishes

An old, disused playground has been transformed into a flourishing community food garden in Te Atatū. Thanks to the inspirational leadership of founders Lila Kuka and Dalton Neho and the help of a team of volunteers, the māra kai has become a reality.


The food garden is behind The Chapel on Te Atatū Peninsula’s Beach Road. Pastor Brian Spicer offered the site to the fledgling Awhi Mai in 2023. In just 12 months, the unloved and overgrown playground has been transformed into a space for the local community to grow their own kai.


The garden was made possible partly thanks to $10,000 in funding from the2023 Your West Support Fund and a climate grant from Auckland Council. Many volunteer hours went into clearing the site and creating ten beds, potting tables and a hothouse. Awhi Mai used found and recycled materials wherever possible.


Lila is proud of their achievements. ‘We have established a welcoming place for our community to come together, feel good about working collectively to grow food and be part of something bigger than themselves,’ she says.


It may be early days, but the food garden has already yielded a bumper crop, including cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and much more. Surplus kai is shared with Te Atatū Foodbank or used in other ways. For example, excess cabbages have been fermented to create delicious sauerkraut.


According to Lila, Awhi Mai has shared 55kg of kai since February, an average of 10kg per week.


The organisation has also started a composting initiative. Food scraps are collected from local businesses and schools and hot composted to remove fungi and bacteria. All that nurturing goodness then goes back into the māra kai. ‘The hot composting kaupapa has collected around 1,800 kgs of food waste that otherwise would have gone to landfill,’ says Lila.


Volunteers are the garden's life source, and every Friday, a team of locals comes together to tend the vegetables. Tasks include potting, weeding, and growing seeds. Lila says that everyone is welcome to get involved, and volunteers range in age from four to 84.


According to Lila, people participate for various reasons. Some do not have their own green spaces, and others want to learn more about growing kai. And some just simply want to give back to their community.


Whatever your motivation, Awhi Mai is a fantastic way to make friends, build connections, and discover how to grow food locally.


Awhi Mai is located at The Chapel, 75 Beach Road. For more information, visit the website or follow the group on Facebook.

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