|dc.description.abstract||Internationally and locally, interest in community gardening is growing. It is being seen as part of the solution to address local, national and global challenges that range from poor nutrition and food insecurity to environmental sustainability and cultural revitalisation. Community gardening covers a variety of horticultural activities that either have a community component or are located on public land. In the New Zealand context, this includes allotments, communal gardening, marae gardens, shared gardening on private land and community-based initiatives to encourage home gardening. In the last few years, the New Zealand health sector has begun to identify gardening as a possible way to help reduce the high prevalence of avoidable chronic conditions among communities with poor health.
The research for this thesis found there is a diversity of community gardening initiatives in Auckland and Wellington. The data also identified revivals in Māori gardening and in home gardening integral to the current interest in community gardening in Aotearoa New Zealand. The research involved qualitative interviews with 35 community garden coordinators and stakeholders in the Auckland and Wellington regions and observations of community gardening working bees and meetings. It found that one of the purposes and benefits of community gardening initiatives is reconnecting people with how food is grown and produced. Interviewees highlighted that to be successful a community garden requires active community involvement, time, passion, a suitable site and adequate resources.
In the interviews, stakeholders and garden coordinators talked about a wide variety of health benefits for the individuals, households and whānau involved and also for the communities in which garden initiatives are located. These benefits covered all four domains of Te Whare Tapa Whā model of health. They included improved nutrition and access to fruit and vegetables, increased physical activity, stronger communities and enhanced mental and spiritual health. Community gardening attracts a variety of people for a diversity of reasons and has the potential to create inclusive spaces.
There are, however, some areas for caution. Creating community gardens is not always easy. Their establishment and maintenance requires hard work, their success is not guaranteed and expectations may exceed what is possible. The findings also suggest that to change lifestyle risk factors, garden initiatives need to be part of a comprehensive approach that may include learning about how to prepare food or changing the local food environment. In addition, gardens will only be successful in reducing inequalities if attention is paid to factors such how resources are distributed, cultural competency and preferences, and ensuring effective community involvement.
These findings assist in building the picture of the potential of community gardening as a public health intervention. The analysis in this thesis suggests that community gardening can assist in improving health outcomes and addressing health inequalities through establishing links with food and food production, increasing availability of healthy food options and creating a place and activity focused on nutritious foods.||