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Karyn Burgess and Nadia McRae sharing the story of Project Awatotara  Photo: Lucy Cooper

Story by Lucy Cooper 

A community garden and stream restoration tour has marked the beginning of Neighbour’s Month for one Masterton location. 

The Meet the Street event in Lansdowne last week included a tour of the Oxford St community garden and an update from Project Awatotara Stream Restoration Group. 

Community catchment coordinator Nadia McRae organised the event. The day gave people a chance to talk, share food and get to know what’s going on in the area, said McRae, whose role is funded by the environmental networking group, Wairarapa Pukaha to Kawakawa Alliance [WaiP2K]. 

The community garden, tucked away behind the houses on the east side of Oxford Street, was started in 2013 by a local social worker and occupies land owned by the Amatiatia Trust. 

It recently celebrated its first 10-week season of providing low-cost veggie boxes to local residents. 

A trial of winter veg boxes will start shortly. 

Anna Baird, who has volunteered at the community garden since it began, said it is a great way for people to feel more connected and share skills, as well as serving a wider community and environmental purpose. 

“If we could run one of these on every street, it would really help resiliency,” she said. 

Masterton District Council Mayor Gary Caffell, who joined the community garden tour, agreed.

“Climate change has become front and centre of council discussions on just about everything now, so it’s something we have to take into account, and something like this community garden fits the bill perfectly,” Caffell said. 

“If we had more of these it would make a lot of sense, really.” 

The Mangawhero Stream runs alongside Mahunga Drive and under Oxford St, before connecting with the Waipoura River downstream. 

Oxford Street resident and Awatotara project volunteer Karyn Burgess and Kara Kenny, freshwater coordinator for Mountains to Sea, told Meet the Street attendees about the history of the waterway, recent restoration activities and challenges the waterway faces. 

Their fencing now stops cows from getting into the water and bank planting will eventually provide shade to the stream, but they want to shift the way the council thinks about urban waterways. 

Burgess said the council should think about streams as urban ecosystems, not just stormwater drains. “Why does a stormwater drain need to be what a stormwater drain has always been? Why can’t it be an ecosystem?” 

The vision for Mangawhero Stream is that of a beautiful, healthy, thriving environment that doesn’t need a lot of intervention, Burgess said. 

“We would love it to be a model for what could happen in other communities. Everybody could gather together as a community and grow together.” 

It is a vision shared by the Tribe Church congregation, which regularly provides coffee and kai for volunteers and hosts a shared community meal on the first Tuesday of every month at its Moss Hall. 

Caring for and restoring environment and community are part of the church’s kaupapa, said Steven Thawley, a senior leader in the Tribe Church, which is part of Eco Church NZ. 

There are many ways people can get involved in community and conservation activities in and around Oxford Street, including working bees, stints at the community garden, and potluck dinners. 

Visit the Facebook pages of WaiP2K, Awatotara Project and the Tribe Church for more information.