With a vision to transform the school grounds into an edible landscape for the children and local community, Otepou School got a jumpstart on the first stage of their project with sponsorship and the donation of eight cubic meters of Kōlush garden mulch from New Zealand Mānuka Seaweeds.
Otepou School Project Manager for the edible landscape vision, Nicola Douglas, said the kids had been doing lots of fundraising so far this year to build a raised garden maze designed by the children. With New Zealand Mānuka Seaweeds offering the gap in funds needed as well as supplying all the mulch required, the school was able to move forward with their project much sooner than expected.
“Without the funding from New Zealand Mānuka Seaweeds we wouldn’t be here doing this work right now,” says Douglas. “The product they have given us is absolutely amazing too – it smells and looks so beautiful. Everyone is loving working with it.”
Established in 1896, Otepou School was originally called Papamoa Native School. Now with a roll of 65 local children, many are 6th generation students directly descended from the students who attended the school when it first opened.
Douglas agreed the project was not just about building the raised gardens but about bringing families together for the future of their children and community.
“One of our projects is to build a food storage space which will be a shelter to keep our excess kai which will be available to any of our families in need,” says Douglas. “People will be able to stop in and take what they want and leave a koha if they can.”
Other projects also planned as part of the edible landscape vision will be a pizza oven and hangi area, fruit trees, chickens, bees and other plants planned for the circumference of the school.
Once built, the children will be planting winter vegetables including beetroot, silverbeet, cauliflower, onions and garlic into the raised gardens. Come spring, they will plant summer vegetables and be encouraged to take their produce home to eat what they have grown.
School Principal, Vianney Douglas, was also one of the 50-odd whanau and local community helping out on the day. She was also very grateful for the support from Good Neighbour who had experienced gardeners directing the build of the gardens.
“We are following their good advice. We’ve got three layers of the mulch in our raised gardens which I think is going to be awesome for growing our vegetables for the kids.
“The mulch looks beautiful. As soon as I saw it I thought it just smells so beautiful!”
The Ministry for Primary Industries is restricting the movement of people and plants in and out of affected areas where Myrtle Rust, the fungal plant disease threatening the survival of our Mānuka forests and plantations, has been discovered.
Karl Gradon, CEO of New Zealand Mānuka Group, confirms, “It is clear the disease is making its way across the country. It’s carried on birds, on cars and on peoples’ feet – it’s a spore and it’s going to spread.”
Myrtle rust is a fungal disease that severely attacks plants in the myrtle family including Pōhutukawa, Mānuka and Rātā. It is not known where the microscopic spores have come from, nor if it is the same type as that found in Australia and New Caledonia.
“We are working with many of our different industry partners to come up with control programmes,” continues Gradon. “We have been listening very closely to MPI and their recommendations, and are staying engaged with them.”
As Gradon warns, Myrtle Rust disease is a national threat to Mānuka, “Mānuka is a toanga, and one of the greatest national treasures on the iwi landholdings, where most our Mānuka grows wild. The impact of this disease needs to be taken very seriously by the Ministry of Primary Industries.”
New Zealand Mānuka Group is currently implementing extensive education and training for all their people directly involved in working with the Mānuka trees including how to identify the disease and what to do once it has been found.
“Most importantly, this is about education and making sure we have the right processes and management strategies are in place to prevent this disease from reaching our plantations,” explains Gradon.
MPI is continuing to work with all industry partners including the forestry, nursery and honey industries to ensure members are aware of what they can do to help.