Happy Birthday Te Puna Quarry Park!

It’s amazing what people power can achieve, just take a look at Te Puna Quarry Park, near Tauranga. From 33ha of overgrown, pest-infested former quarry to a public park that delights visitors every single day of the week.

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the first work day, when volunteers turned up to begin clearing pest plants and illegally dumped rubbish in the area that is now the car park. I can remember thinking at the time that it was just too big a job, that people would get disheartened and walk away from it, especially as there was no money for anything.

How wrong was I? Not only have weeds been cleared (an ongoing task) but there are walking tracks all over the site, gardens to be discovered, a small function venue, an amphitheatre and as original volunteers have aged and/or fallen away, others have emerged to take their place.

A low-key lunchtime event yesterday was a chance to celebrate volunteers past and present and for everyone to give themselves a big pat on the back for realising the dream. President Shona Purves read out the names of that first band of volunteers, some still involved with the project.

Founding volunteers present for – and enjoying – the cake cutting were, from left, Jo Dawkins (still working), Keith Frentz, Shirley Alderson (her last day), park founder and life member Shirley Sparks, Ray Alderson (his last day) and Ian Cross (still working). Photo: Sandra Simpson

Stories were told about the bureaucratic tangle that had to be negotiated before a management agreement (allowing work to begin) could be signed with Western Bay of Plenty District Council, endorsed by former Mayor Maureen Anderson who laughingly agreed with every word.

Maureen Anderson, former Western Bay Mayor, was invited to plant a kauri to mark the occasion but, unlike the Queen, had to shovel in all the compost and earth herself, a task she didn’t bat an eye at! Photo: Sandra Simpson

Tribute was also paid to the late Colin Bidois and Pirirakau hapu who, seeing what was being achieved at the quarry for the community, decided to exempt the land from their Waitangi Tribunal claim.

Pottery by Shirley Sparks depicts scenes from the working quarry (early 1900s to 1979). The rusty tools on the right were dug up from what was once a house site and is now the Herb Garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson

If you’d like to join the happy band of volunteers, turn up on any Tuesday morning at 9am with gardening tools, sturdy shoes and morning tea. All sorts of jobs are available from small construction to weeding.

Online gardening courses in Kiwiland

Two well-known gardening teaching businesses in New Zealand have embraced online learning to get around Covid restrictions in New Zealand, while Plenty Permaculture switched to online classes last year. Theoretically, these classes are now open to anyone, anywhere in the world.

Pakaraka Permaculture courses, taught by Yotam Kay, start on set dates – March 16, May 3 and May 4 and include online meetings. Read more here. Yotam and his wife Niva are the authors of The Abundant Garden, published last year. Read more about them here.

Koanga Institute, led by the indomitable Kay Baxter, has set up its courses so they can be started at any time. Kay and Bob Corker have put together nine video workshops. See the line-up here.

Plenty Permaculture, based near Tauranga, is moving to a fully online model but in the meantime offers its Gardening Essentials courses as videos and tutor notes. See the topics and how to enrol here.

A quick search has thrown up a couple of other New Zealand online gardening schools that look interesting so you may want to check Blue Borage, which includes a free Foundations of Edible Gardening course, and Wellington Gardens Ltd.

Happy learning!

A dead good walk

You know already that I like an historic cemetery, and even better if it’s nicely planted and cared for, so if that describes you too you’d do well to book a spot on a guided tour of Napier’s historic cemetery, a place we thoroughly enjoyed rambling through (unguided) late last year.

Photo: Sandra Simpson

The cemetery on Hospital Hill was in use from 1855 to 1977 and contains the graves of some notables, including William Williams (1800-78), the first Bishop of Waiapu and one of the translators of the Treaty of Waitangi into te reo Maori, and his son William Leonard Williams (1829-1916), who was baptised in the Bay of Islands in 1829 “at the first baptism of Maori infants”. Every headstone tells a story to those that know and, going by the signboard at the entrance, there are plenty of sad tales surrounding the “ordinary folk” buried here.

Towering over all the other monuments is the one for Sir Donald McLean (1820-1877). As you can see by the light, rain wasn’t far off. Photo: Sandra Simpson

A band of volunteers, calling themselves Greening the Graveyard, began to care for the grounds in about 2008, after they had become unkempt and continue to do a splendid job of making this an attractive environment that is still respectful. The cemetery is flanked by Napier’s Botanic Gardens that spill down the hillside, but we’ll have to return to enjoy them as by that time the rain had set in and sent us scurrying for home.

The gardens were rambling drifts of colour during our November visit. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Heritage roses work their romantic magic. Photo: Sandra Simpson
The shelter on the right, originally a lychgate at St Andrew’s Church in Ahuriri, was moved to the cemetery when that building was demolished in 1972 .Photo: Sandra Simpson

Funds raised from the guided tours are used to help buy plants for the cemetery.