26 Jun 2015

Auckland marae goes organic

8:55 pm on 26 June 2015

An Auckland marae aims to be the first in the country to have its community gardens certified as organic under Te Waka Kai Ora, or Maori Organics Aotearoa.

Papatuanuku Kokiri Marae in Mangere will receive its final Hua Parakore validation on 4 July.

Papatuanuku, which means Mother Earth, set up the gardens nearly 30 years ago on a hectare of land.

Marae trustee Hineamaru Ropati, of Ngati Hine, said it had followed strict rules over the last five years like ensuring the land was pesticide spray-free to achieve organic certification.

She said the gardens were important not only to Maori but other ethnic groups in the community.

"We have whanau gardens where families come in and grow their own crop line. We share all the resources that we've got here, we have groups that come in and harvest for those that are in need but we do have some set rules in certain circumstances.

"If you've got a cigarette hanging out of your lips and you say that you can't afford a meal, well you won't be getting any here," she said.

Ms Ropati said thousands of people benefitted from the gardens every year.

"They don't just benefit in regards to the product or resources that come off the garden but also through the educational workshops that come through, different schools and early childhood, kohanga reo, they come in and they learn different ways of planting.

"We have seeds that they come and collect and so the garden, the mara becomes the vehicle to attract a lot of people to say it really is an achievable task."

Ms Ropati said the gardens had been a crucial part of the marae's efforts to tackle childhood obesity.