A new community space is being birthed in Mangere East, on a small piece of vacant land behind ME Family Services in Ferguson St. The 300m2 site is set to become a hands-on learning, teaching and regeneration space for young and old, with community gardens, a “makerspace”, and seating, eating and meeting areas.
ME Family Services Social Designer John Belford-Lelaulu has been working with groups of students from De La Salle College and Unitec to plan the space, starting with getting to know the land itself. “Before being drained for farming in the 1800s, Mangere East was once a swampy wetland area, valued for its natural resources and as a place for preserving taonga”, says John. “We want to honour and reflect that history in our design of the Regen Zone”.
Most of us have forgotten that swamps played a really important role in the eco-system, slowing the flow of water through the land and capturing and storing the nutrients to create life. ME Family Services hopes that the Regen Zone will play a similar role for the community, by slowing the flow of waste from our homes to landfill and capturing its value for re-use.
John and his team are scavenging neighbourhood waste to create the space, using tyres from nearby Milan Motors for seating and garden beds and wood pallets from local businesses for composting areas. An old shipping container is being refurbished for the “makerspace”, an area where locals can try their hand at fixing and making their own things.
“At uni you’re learning all the theoretical stuff. It’s great to get a taste of the real stuff, to be hands-on in your own community. It’s very special being close to home”, says Unitec student Tevita Vikilani. Fellow student Phillipp Muller agrees. “It’s a good experience to get your feet into the real world”, he says.
Once completed, ME Family Services wants the space to be used by the whole community- including local schools and preschools, as well as neighbours. “We want to provide a little local space where people can engage with other each and with the natural world. A sacred space where people can regenerate their waste and themselves”, says CEO Peter Sykes. The space will offer authentic, organic opportunities for people to learn about gardening, reducing waste and upcycling- “the things our ancestors have done for millennia!”.
Written by Justine Skilling
Talking Rubbish, ME Family Services