Georgina Kelly-Ngatoko’s garden in Māngere East is an explosion of food at the moment.
Tomatoes, silverbeet, spring onions and celery vie for space with taro plants and cucumbers, making use of the area along the fenceline and the sides of the house for garden beds. The Kaingaora tenant and employee of ME Family Services has been slowly expanding the growing spaces in her backyard since she moved into the house with her family of five 12 years ago.
“There was no garden when we moved into the property, but my husband was the green-
fingered one who started a little raised bed with lettuces to help us get by”, says Georgina.
The family is originally from the Cook Islands, and Georgina believes that “most Pacific
Islanders are quite green-fingered and love their vegetables”, especially those that are
familiar with growing food on plantations back in the Islands. Her husband Nio has certainlygot the bug- “If he could, he probably would’ve dug up the whole yard”, she says.
Georgina sees the benefits of the garden for her whole family. Adding a compost bin to the
garden means that the family can use all their food scraps, garden waste, paper and
carboard to make beautiful compost to put back in their garden. Her children are all
involved in the gardening and composting systems. “What I’m doing in the house is what
they’re following, I’m teaching them. They’re trying to live healthier lifestyles and having
healthy meals and having those vegetables on the table is great for them. Hopefully they getthe bug of being green-fingered and composting and they’ll be able to sustain their
knowledge of that as well”, says Georgina.
Growing food at home has created lots of opportunities for Georgina’s family to connect
with neighbours. “We kind of engaged with each other and shared seeds and shared ideas”,
she says. One neighbour is particularly knowledgeable about using plants as medicine,
while another creates garden art out of pots and pipes. Both have been happy to share their skills. When Georgina’s family has an overflow of vegetables, they’re able to share produce with their neighbours. “It’s become a bit of a trading thing on our street”, she says.
Working at ME Family Services (which has a community garden) has encouraged Georgina
on her journey with growing food at home. “Watching our gardeners and seeing how we
maintain our gardens has been really helpful”, says Georgina. She’s also learnt a lot from
seeing how different people at ME Family Services use the produce- from Middle Eastern
cook-offs to boil-ups. She’s learnt how to use herbs and create tasty meals from what she’s
Georgina would love to see other Kaingaora tenants give gardening and composting at
home a go. “I’d encourage them to start doing something sustainable in their own
backyards. It’s possible, especially at this time of lockdown, to think about what’s around
the back of their yards, how they could connect with neighbours and trade plants or seeds
with each other. It doesn’t cost much, and the benefits come out for the children and the