Auckland teenager Ariana Brunet has created a garden for her city-dwelling neighbours that’s breaking social barriers and bringing the community together
This Auckland teenager has created community garden for her inner-city neighbours
I spent my late teenage years fighting with my parents and trying to get older boys to buy me Bacardi Breezers. Ariana Brunet has spent hers trying to make Tamaki Makaurau a more environmentally sensible place. It’s good the times are a-changin’.
Brunet lives in a central city apartment with her mum. She goes to school at Western Springs College and appears to have wisdom far beyond her 17 years. She is about to finish her final school year and head to Victoria University to study environmentalism and drama. Before she goes, she is creating a community garden in her neighbourhood.
Kids at Springs College are encouraged to engage with local issues: Brunet has a vivid look of disappointment on her face when she talks about being too young to vote for mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick. Some of her frustration is being channeled into a mostly desolate patch of land behind St Matthew-in-the-City on Wellesley Street.
The church doesn’t have a formal use for the space and nor does the council but, thanks to a $300 grant from Activate Auckland (a council initiative helping revitalise green spaces city-wide) and help from landscapers, architects, urban planners and friends, Brunet has developed a simple, low-cost community garden. The cross-shaped raised bed – made by Hone Pene’s voluntary upcycling team in Te Atatu – was planted earlier this month.
Brunet wants to “nourish the soul of her neighbourhood” and “give autonomy to marginalised Aucklanders” – particularly those being supported by the nearby City Mission – by involving them in planting and maintenance.
She hopes Mission residents will “become the guardians of the garden” and enjoy their share of the harvest. When Brunet moves to Wellington early next year, the residents will tend the garden, supported by a community network she’s established.
Most of what’s grown will be seasonal root vegetables (carrots, radishes and more), a plan that should protect the crops from vandalism by keeping them mostly hidden from sight. A flowerbed of lupins and borage has been added to attract bees and other garden-friendly insects.
A patch of traditional Maori herbs will be a gateway to teaching Aucklanders about traditional medicine, and an attempt to further connect The Mission’s Maori residents to the land. Brunet says the garden “is about breaking social barriers, bringing communities together and forging connections” in what can be a lonely city. There are already more than 30 people involved, a number which is sure to grow under the care of Brunet’s green thumb.
Words by: Kate Richards. This article originally appeared in Paperboy magazine.