A community space to nurture the health and wellbeing of our community and the ecosystem in which it is situated.
Roimata Food Commons is led by a charitable trust, Roimata Commons Trust, to empower the community to co-create the space in a way that best nourishes our hapori/community. We started in 2017 and have held many events to provide opportunities to the people of Woolston and beyond, as well as to nurture and replenish the natural systems in Radley Park. It is only in the last 6 months that we have had the resources to pay for a co-ordinator, everything else has and will be done voluntarily.
Since starting planting in August 2017, we have added over 100 Heritage fruit and nut trees, 1000+ native plants, herbs, berries, vegetables, flowers and perennial plants into the spaces. To accommodate all this we have landscaped two Food Forest areas, a mixed fruit garden, four native plant clusters, and more recently a community gardening/gathering space.
Why Roimata Food Commons?
We have always held the intention of exploring what can be created in a space like Radley Park. If we had named it a community garden, then I believe many people would have certain expectations as to what that space might look, feel and behave like. The term Commons comes from a structure that used to be present in many places around the globe. Essentially it means a space that holds or creates resources that is nurtured by its community for the long term benefit of the community.
It is important for us that people know that they can access the produce at Roimata at anytime of any day, all that we ask is that you wait till it is ready, only take what you need and be careful when harvesting not to damage the plant itself. We don't expect that you come to a working bee to access the produce, however we would love for you to do that and help us grow this space in a way that helps to nourish you.
Radley Park has an amazing story to tell....
It was originally wetland area that bordered the Ōpāwaho/Heathcote River. It was home to many bird, water and plant species and was a rich resource that was stewarded by local Māori iwi. Mahinga Kai, a term used specifically by Ngāi Tahu, is a practice of accessing and looking after the natural resources that you live alongside - holding Kaitiakitanga (stewardship) and Manaakitanga (respect) for the whenua (land), awa (river), rākau (trees), ika (fish), manu (birds) and all other living beings.
In the late 1840's, during the settlement of Ōtautahi/Christchurch by European settlers, rural section 64 (comprising of 130 acres of land) was purchased by Edward Kent and Issac Luck. They set up a farm onsite named Isis Farm, after the Egyptian Goddess of Agriculture, and grew the likes of wheat, oats and turnips.
We are unsure of the length of time the land was farmed, however have found out that the land was passed onto the Christchurch City Council in the mid-1950's by the then owners Alfred & Hannah Gates as part of their estate settlement. A large portion of the land was used for housing, however the Gates' had stipulated that a portion of the land was to be kept for the wellbeing of the community...hence the creation of Radley Park.
Another important part of the story of the land and water in Radley Park is that of the Ōpāwaho/Heathcote River.
The Ōpāwaho was a crucial transport link for the building of Ōtautahi/Christchurch. Boats used the Ōpāwaho to bring goods and people in from Lyttelton and all over Waitaha/Canterbury. These were the people and materials that started to create the bones of the city we live in today. In Radley Park there were 3 wharves, all privately owned, some for specific goods, others more generalised. It was the main industrial area of early Ōtautahi - with timber mills, limeworks and tanneries set up alongside the river and the surrounding areas.
This has had an impact of the health of the Ōpāwaho over time, and now it is very unhealthy compared to what it used to be. It is one of the stated aims of the Roimata Food Commons to do more than our share to improve the health of the river and all living beings that live in relationship with it.