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Hot property: Groups wrangle over Mt Victoria town belt site

Sep 8th, 2008 | By | Category: Featured Article, News

THE BANDOLIERS site on Wellington’s Mt Victoria town belt is becoming hot property.

Two community groups are applying to Wellington City Council to gain access to it and another wants the building there to be erased from the site altogether.

Friends of the Town Belt, a group formed to protect the city’s 400-hectare green reserve, does not want community groups moving into the disused building.

Chair of Friends of the Town Belt, John Bishop, says: “Buildings such as that, which have gone past their use-by date, ought to be removed.”

The council is normally the strongest advocate in achieving that, he says, citing buildings removed from Newtown and Central Parks.

Mr Bishop says the group – of about 100 to 200 members – has not been consulted to date, “but we would like that very much”.

But the recently displaced Crossways Community Crèche and a gardening group have already formally sought council permission to take over the space.

In May 2007, Innermost Gardens applied to use the council-owned site, to establish an organic community garden for local, migrant and refugee women.

Group founder Emet Degirmenci-Alpay, originally from Turkey, lived in Australia for eight years before moving to Wellington three years ago.  She understands the loneliness migrant women experience when they move to another culture.

“After September 11, lots of migrant women – especially of Middle Eastern decent – were isolated from their communities,” she says.

“I wanted to bring peace to my community, and as nature and gardening are my passions, I thought of establishing a community garden.”

Ms Degirmenci-Alpay says most refugees and migrants cannot speak English properly and would like to do practical things. “I have been in Western society for 10 years – I am more established. Social isolation is a really big thing in refugee and migrant communities. The project is to create a space for them.”

The group, which includes women from seven different countries, is making a garden on a small, muddy bank behind the St James Presbyterian Church in Newtown.  They also have the use of Manse House in which to hold meetings. 

But this is a temporary location, and they are eager to put down more permanent roots on a larger site. 

While waiting for a decision from the Wellington City Council, Anita Kloezeman, a garden designer within the group, has drawn up a plan in the shape of a flower for the Bandoliers site.

“It will have a big pond in the middle, Maori herbs around it to show respect for the indigenous culture here, and five petals representing each continent, where vegetables, flowers and herbs would be grown.”

Ms Degirmenci-Alpay says other, local groups could have smaller gardens around the flower design.  Innermost Gardens are also open to sharing the space with other community groups, and are currently under consultation with crèche.

“We are very sympathetic to the crèche. They are a local group in Mt Victoria. We are just hoping for a resolution from the city council soon.”

Wellington City Council spokesperson Richard MacLean says: “We cannot give the gardening group an answer on the usage of the Bandoliers site until we have also looked at whether it is feasible for the crèche to possibly use the site.”

Mr Maclean says it is highly probable that both the Mt Victoria Residents Association and Friends of the Town Belt will be asked for their views.

“We can’t be definitive about when a decision will be made.”

PICTURE: Emet Degirmenci working on her vision: Innermost Garden.

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is a Whitireia Journalism student.
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  1. I am helping Innermost with some building to get them up and going. Came across this article.
    Very well written.

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