Making Auckland Bee-autiful​

Sean Stapleton                                           17/05/2018                                     For the Love of Bees

By Sean Stapleton

Aucklanders are abuzz in their efforts to become the most bee-friendly city in the world.

Through the City Bee Collaboration (CBC), Sarah Smuts-Kennedy is aiming to educate locals on gardening and assist the development of Biological Pollinator Sanctuaries.

These safe spaces are developed not only for bees but humans too, creating a place for pollinators to thrive and nutrient-dense foods to grow.

The CBC runs a series of workshops open to anyone, on everything from seed planting to bee care workshops and bike adventures that raise awareness about how bees experience the city.

Anna Dadson runs the Griffith Gardens on Wellesley Street in the Central Business District in which she, with a number of volunteers, grows and manages over 20 plot boxes of organic plants.

“This is a biology-first teaching garden where we teach about microbiology and plant health,” explains Dadson.

She says she sometimes has up to 20 students and volunteers who attend her workshops at the Griffiths Gardens and will often have pedestrians join in out of curiosity.

Paul Coe, one of the Wellesley Street volunteers, says he is keen to involve others in the project. He gets a great amount of pleasure from the gardens.

“This small area [referring to a miniature greenhouse on site] is all I have on my balcony to grow in,” he says, explaining how the project lets him thrive in a much larger gardening space.

Antonina Elliot, another student, speaks eagerly about her involvement.

“I got involved after walking past the garden every day on my way to the bus. I wanted to learn more about gardening, to understand the science, so I know what I’m doing in my own garden.”

The CBC has secured Auckland Council funding for another year to continue the Griffiths Gardens and maintain its seed bank.

At a planning meeting, contributors are excited about the opportunity to further extend their project.

“Plants love dissonant sounds, and we’re looking to see how we could involve musicians to perform in our space,” says Dadson.

Among the variety of plants at the Griffiths Gardens are hollyhocks, a flower that requires a high level of care – a sign of the dedication that goes into these gardens.

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Bus Stop Blues have Mt Eden Residents Irate

Sean Stapleton                         22/03/2018                              Mt Eden vs Auckland Transport

By Sean Stapleton

 

Mount Eden residents are angry over Auckland Transport’s proposal to double the size of bus stop spaces in their village.

In a meeting held by the Mt Eden Business Association (MEBA), which more than 200 ratepayers attended, they outlined their submission made to AT on the proposed extensions.

The MEBA claimed that the proposal fails to respect the historical context of the village and reduces accessibility, negatively impacting their economy.

Accessibility concerns were in relation to a reduction in parking during changes to bus lane operation hours and an increase in commuter foot traffic that residents claimed had no interest in shopping.

MEBA chairman Steve Roper compared dealing with AT to, “death by a thousand cuts”, in regards to the slow and often delayed assessments, proposals and meetings.

A number of local representatives were present, engaging with residents during the meeting, including David Seymour, Christine Fletcher and a number of members of the Albert Eden Local Board.

Councilor Fletcher was vocal in her desire to hold government accountable as she believes there is a lack of culpability from the AT board. “AT has an obligation to consult the community”, claims Fletcher.

Notably absent from the meeting was a representative from AT, to the vocal disappointment from those attending.

AT reportedly declined the invitation, as it would be inappropriate to give more attention to the submission than any of the other 600 made on the proposal. When approached for further comment AT failed to respond.

 

MP for Epsom, David Seymour was also critical of AT’s conduct, pointing the finger at them for a lack of publically available information. “What we have been shown here tonight is of a much higher quality than what can be found on AT’s website”, claimed Seymour.

Ratepayer and activist Lisa Prager rallied meeting attendees with calls to action against the AT Board. “Our town is out of control and the council is devoid of power to reign AT in” claimed Prager, referencing public protests against AT road works.

Residents made it clear that they wanted something to come of the meeting, making it known that there was displeasure in lack of attendance from AT.

They wanted it noted that they support the MEBA submission and urged AT to reconsider their proposal. There was also a motion for AT and Auckland Council to formulate a central plan for Mount Eden before making further changes to the area.

 

 

Dog owners fear for the future of Meola Park

Sean Stapleton     25/05/2017     Meola Dog Park

By Sean Stapleton

Meloa Dog Park users are worried over the impact of Auckland Council planning developments on the park’s off leash status.

Dog owner and Westemere resident Leela Anderson expressed her fears for the park, saying that she thought the park could face re-purposing under council planning initiatives.

“It’ll either be taken away from us, or made into a ritzy playground, and as soon as you have playgrounds you can’t have dogs, because of children.”

Meola Dog Park was named by Stuff as Auckland’s best off leash dog park in 2016, and attracts dog walkers from all across the city.

Mt Roskill resident and dog owner Justine Brown said, “ I wouldn’t be coming here unless I had a dog, it wouldn’t make sense.” She was firm in saying that the park had no need for change.

Auckland Council designated the completion of development plans for Meola park as a prority in their 2017/2018 budget. The Waitematā Local Board has held several public consultation sessions on the matter since March.

Chair of the Waitematā Local Board, Pippa Coom was approached for comment on the issue, but failed to respond.

“You have to be really careful and know your dog laws going anywhere,” said Pt Chevalier resident and dog owner Nicole Russell. “Dogs need that off leash experience,” she said, in response to questions about park developments.

In 2015 there was a widescale review of dog rules by the Local Board, that resulted in the prohibition of dogs from certain local areas and restrictions on leash rules in the interests of conservation of local wild life. Meola Park was subject to a number of these changes which now restrict access for dogs outside of the off leash zone.

Anderson said that after Forest and Bird’s involvement in the application of restrictions, she fears that open submisssions may result in “over-conservative measures being applied”.

The March of the Hopeful

Sean Stapleton     04/05/2017     Hope Walk

 

By Sean Stapleton

Hope is afoot as New Zealanders are marching across the country in a movement to raise awareness for mental health and suicide prevention.

The charity, HopeWalk, just held a march in association with Voices of Hope in the Auckland Domain on the 29th of April, with over 600 attendees turning out to walk.

The march covered five kilometers and 79 meters as they looped through the domain, as a symbol of the 579 lives lost to suicide in the last coroner’s report.

HopeWalk is a charitable trust, dedicated to suicide awareness and prevention events. They held their first event in February of 2016, in the form of a march from Manakau to Papakura.

Prior to starting the march, organiser Joseph Fa’afiu, addressed the crowd.

“How many of us here today have lost a someone in our lives to suicide?”

In a silent display, hundreds lifted their hands to indicate they had lost loved ones.

Following the march, founders of Voices of Hope, Jazz Thornton and Genevieve More, spoke reinforcing the message of the event. The pair went on to share with the crowd details from their own journey with mental health.

“Without sharing, change can’t be made,” said More. Pressing that to fight the stigma of depression, New Zealanders need be more open about their mental health.

HopeWalk was established by Fa’afiu, after he lost a close friend to suicide in 2010. The organisation runs marches all across New Zealand from Invercargill to Auckland.

 

If this article brought up any issues for you call

Life line 0800 543 354
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757

 

HopeWalk can be found at http://www.hopewalk.nz 

Voices of hope can be found at http://www.thevoicesofhope.org

Hayley Holt calls for drug law reforms

Sean Stapleton     06/04/2017     Cannabis Reform

By Sean Stapleton

Green party candidate Hayley Holt says she expects cannabis to be the equivalent of a glass of wine soon.

In a recent press conference Holt voiced her support for the decriminalisation of all drugs and legalisation of marijuana.

She stated that she believed the risks asscociated with the drug were much lower than alcohol and that it could be consumed responsibly.

“It’s a health issue”, Holt claimed. “Portugal decriminalised all drugs and it reduced their drug usage. It’s the way forward.”

Holt believes smoking a joint will become just the same as an evening glass of wine in 10 years.

While Holt is advocating for the decriminalisation of all illegal drugs, the Green Party is more conservative in its drug policies, focusing soley on cannabis use.

The party states in its Drug Law Reform policy that it would make provisions for doctors to be able to prescribe cannabis to patients and that they aiming to “introduce a legal age limit of 18 years for personal cannabis use”.

While not said outright, party policy suggests they support the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.

The National Party was approached for comment on the possibility of cannabis law reform but failed to respond.

Auckland voters have had a mixed response to Holt’s views on drug reform and expressed concern for the legalisation of cannabis beyond medicinal use.

Helen Bergin, 69, was critical of cannabis as a medicine and said she questioned whether smoking it would “override the health benefits of [cannabis] as a medicine”.

Bergin stated that she was “absolutely against” recreational use.

Student Neil Napila, 18, was more worried about how recreational use might impair drivers.

“It gets you high, and [they] drive sometimes. It might cause some accidents.”

Under New Zealand law it is currently illegal to drive while impaired by a controlled drug or prescription medicine.

Dumpster Dinners

Sean Stapleton       15/03/2017       Dumpster Divers

By Sean Stapleton

Two Auckland dumpster divers are on a mission to save edible food from landfills as they redistribute to the needy.

Every week, the two women who wish to remain unnamed, head out in the early hours of the morning to supermarkets across central Auckland. They unashamedly dive deep into the outdoor skips as they search for fresh and edible food.

The pair are both professional academics at Auckland University and have years of experience with dumpster diving. Although they are advocates and want to spread awareness of the activity, they fear repercussions from their jobs if they went public.

This is a new operation as they have only been diving in Auckland for a month now.

Despite this, they already face an issue of surplus in what they recover and are currently in the process of expanding their distribution network.

“We get really frustrated,” the pair said. “We know people need this food but we don’t know how to get it to them.”

In the last week, they connected with Rescare Homes Trust, a lifestyle community for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Aatir Zadi, a supervisor at the Manukau Community was thankful for their support.

“The quality of food was amazing and we would love to request some more in future.

We loved the selection of breads and veggies.”

Hygiene may seem like danger when recovering food from dumpsters, but these women have a series of systems and checks to ensure the food is edible.

Discretion is key during the recovery process, and a second check of all food is performed once they return home to their flat. Vacuum packed products are submerged in water to check for leaks in packaging, while fruit and vegetables get soaked and cleaned.

The food they retrieve is stored at their flat in two fridge and freezer unit as well as a 250-liter chest freezer. Most is cooked, canned or preserved before storage as soon as possible to prevent the food from becoming inedible.

Though these women operate in an unofficial capacity, there are official charities that work with supermarkets to save wasted food. Fair Food is one such group, which works with chain stores such as Countdown and Farro Fresh.

Countdown and Farro Fresh are however, stores that these women frequently dive at. Which suggests even with official redistribution, there is still more than necessary going to waste.

Doughnuts: Next on the Swarbrick agenda

Friday Oct 21, 2016

Ex-mayoral candidate and self made entrepreneur Chlöe Swarbrick is opening a doughnut cafe and art gallery.

Swarbrick and partner Alex Bartley Catt have been working with associate  Bryan Anderson on the renovation and development  of the space they have coined Olly. The cafe is due to open in about a month, and will be located inside suburban cinema The Crystal Palace.

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Outside Olly – Photo/Sean Stapleton

The idea for a doughnut cafe was concieved out of Swarbrick and Catt’s passion for the pastries, and disappointment in the lack of a doughnut scene in Auckland. “No one really does the sort of doughnuts that people want here,” claims Swarbrick.

Olly will have a range of doughnuts that will include both yeast and cake based recipes with a focus on the traditional circular shape. The aim is to create a brand that draws on both the American ideals and Melbourne doughnut trends.

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The Crystal Palace – Photo/Sean Stapleton

Though Swarbrick concedes that “doughnuts aren’t extremely healthy”,  they will be using high quality and natural ingredients.

The trio acquired the space following a change in management of the suburban cinema.

Swarbrick would walk past the empty store front daily and had designs on it for a while, as she has a infatuation with project spaces. Her initial plans for the space were solely for an art gallery.

Art has always been a great love of Swarbrick’s and she has been involved in a number of artistic projects over the last three years. She even founded The Goods last year, a “united front for local artists, photographers, and rag traders”.

Through that front Swarbrick set up a space similar to her current project, in St Kevin’s arcade last December. There they hosted a week long retail space with a revolving gallery.

“I love talented artists. It kind of hurts me when I see people not feeling confident in their passions”

Swarbrick aims to give artists a leg up to share their talent with a broader audience, potentially sell their works and gain more faith in their talent.

With this mentality towards the arts, the trio behind Olly have brought in artists from their networks to contribute to a mural covering the back wall of their cafe. Bryson Naik, Toni Gill and Jed Richardson are the collaborators on the art piece (pictured below).

Back at it

A post shared by Chlöe Swarbrick (@chloe.swarbrick) on

The art displayed in the gallery will be on a monthly rotation with gallery openings to accompany the arrival of the new exhibitions.

The space is intended to be a permanent fixture, so locals can expect a bright future with plenty  of fresh art in the village.

Some may be concerned by how far the space is from the centre of Mt Eden Village, however Swarbrick has no qualms. “Passerbys have been showing a lot of interest and we have a wide network,” she claims.

The sentiment is shared by nearby cafes, Oaeill Liang, a local cafe worker says “Some people think that we are very far away from the centre of the village, but a lot of people like that.” He believes that if businesses on the edge of the village work together they can increase their customer traffic.

The trio’s venture is a sign of what becomes of modern tertiary students as they enter the work force. A social media poll conducted shows that it’s a widely held view that after graduation students are likely to end up with diverse careers that stray from their qualification title.

 

Swarbrick is a prime example of this modern trend, as she graduated from Auckland University with a Law degree, and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in philosophy. Qualifications that seem odd considering her work history.

As a young woman involved in multiple projects and working a number of jobs, Chlöe Swarbrick holds a personal philosophy that fuels her drive. “Life is Suffering,” she says, a buddhist moral, and idea that she believes pushes her to make life meaningful.

–  Sean Stapleton