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Teamwork .. Corrections Department supervisors Warren Cook, (far right), his wife, Jan Cook, far left, with Kaiapoi Food Forest chairman Brent Cairns, and community member Tracey, who provided morning tea for the workers. Photo: Shelley Topp

By Shelley Topp

Now, the Waimakariri District Council-owned land, opposite St Bartholomew’s Anglican Church, has been transformed into the Kaiapoi Food Forest.

The garden has been a long-held goal of Kaiapoi Food Forest Trust chairman Brent Cairns and his wife Shirley.

The transformation has been achieved with help from the Rangiora Community Corrections group of offenders led by their Corrections Department supervisor Warren Cook.

Last month, the contribution made by the Corrections Department group at the Food Forest was recognised when a member of the Kaiapoi community, who asked to be known only as Tracey, made morning tea for the men and women working at the site to show appreciation to the Corrections Department group for their work.

Three hundred trees have been planted in the forest garden, including 50 types of fruit and 17 varieties of apples.

The corrections team moved between 200-300 cubic metres of mulch, donated by Treetech and Brian’s Tree Services, on to the gardens, and painted fence posts surrounding the area.

“They have done an amazing amount of work,” Brent says.

Hard at work . . . The Rangiora Community Corections Department offendrs team cart mulch.

“When they come in things happen really fast. Warren has even turned up on his days off to help out.”

The Food Forest idea has been on Brent’s wish list for Kaiapoi ever since the 2010 earthquake.

“Utilising the fruit trees that were left behind by the families that used to live in the red zones is a wonderful legacy. The food forest is a worthwhile, awesome legacy project that will bring people to Kaiapoi, to experience one of the best little towns in New Zealand.”

However, when the council made the site available for the project, the enormity of the work needed to transform the area into a food forest quickly became apparent.

He sought advice from Greg Byrnes, general manager of the Te Kohaka o Tuhaitara Trust, which administers the Tuhaitara Coastal Park where the Corrections Department had helped with the biodiversity programme and restoration work.

He was able to get the Corrections Department on board for the project to help w

ith the initial labour, carting and spreading compost and mulch to establish the garden.

Since September last year, progress has been rapid and the garden is now a bountiful food forest for the surrounding community to enjoy, connect, nourish, educate and inspire. Just take a fruit and leave some for others, the “welcome” sign on the front fence, says.

The garden includes 82 strawberry plants donated by Clarkville School parents and teachers, with 55 students from the school visiting the garden to plant them. A pear tree transplanted to the Food Forest from a nearby red-zoned home is flourishing along with a medlar tree.

Every plant in the garden has been donated by people in the community.

People and businesses have asked the Food Forest trustees if they can buy a tree to plant in the garden.

“We love this idea as we believe this would further connect the community, the businesses and the people to the Food Forest,” Brent says.

“We have only one condition and that is we have some trees that we have lots of, so call us first before purchasing a tree and we will give you a list of trees that we would like you to bring along and plant.

People can contact: (03) 327066 or (027) 2224767, or email brent@kaiapoi.info. For more information about the Kaiapoi Food Forest, and other supporters, go online to kai.net.nz.