In the 1960s, the idea of rail linking the south and west through Onehunga was floated and land was set aside in preparation. The project was never completed and sections of vacant land have remained throughout the suburb ever since.
Looking to make good use of the land, one empty section has been claimed back by the community through a lease and rates agreement with KiwiRail.
Members of the community gathered at 64 Arthur Street in 2014 to share their ideas and vision for the empty section, and the Onehunga People’s Garden was born.
Before long, the People's Garden became an incorporated society with a membership made up of people from the surrounding streets.
“The valley was in a pretty bad state when it was handed over, it had been used as a dumping ground for residential rubbish and the area was choking in weeds,” said Barbara Gaston, Chair of the Onehunga People’s Garden.
“But there were beautiful sea views and a community will to make it into something special. The focus is on trees, birds, butterflies, rambling walks, and clean open waterways.”
Without destroying the existing ecosystem, weeds were removed and new plants were established. Some open space was maintained for community get-togethers, but it is not classified as a public park. The group envisioned an innovative community space incorporating education and conservation as well as a social
To date, the community has planted over 12,000 trees and plants, and there are thousands more planned for over the next five years.
Barbara described how those who participated in the planting and maintenance of the garden “have gained enormous satisfaction from seeing the trees grow and the water quality noticeably improve.”
The project has been financed and supported through grants from the Maungakiekie Tāmaki Local Board and with ongoing support from Auckland Council, most recently through Phil Goff’s Million Trees project.
“There has been a phenomenal change to the area,” says Debbie Burrows, Deputy Chair of Maungakiekie Tāmaki Local board, who help fund aspects of the work the group does through local grants.
“It’s pretty clear that the garden exists in such a good state because of dedicated of members of the local community who work so hard on it."
Volunteer planting day
Volunteers are invited to lend a hand at planting and weeding events taking place at the People's Garden:
When: Sunday 26 May, 9am
Where: 64 Arthur Street, Onehunga, Auckland
More information can be found on the People's Garden Facebook page.