"A group of Auckland's homeless have become part-time gardeners, thanks to a collaboration involving Ngati Whatua and the city's young business leaders.
Ngati Whatua has given up part of its "whenua rangatira", the land of its chiefs around Orakei Marae at Bastion Point, for homeless people to start a vegetable garden to supply the Auckland City Mission's foodbank.
City Mission homeless team leader Wilf Holt said varying numbers of four to six streeties had spent two days a week gardening since late September.
"In some cases people have time on their hands which, with their drug and alcohol addictions, plays into the addiction's hands," he said. "Now they are too tired at the end of the day."
He initially approached Ngati Whatua when he heard that they were holding community planting days around Matariki, the Maori New Year in July. He put the word out among the streeties, 70 per cent of whom are Maori, and took busloads of about 40 volunteers up to Orakei twice - the second time in driving rain.
"There was this wanting to participate in something larger than themselves," he said.
"There was the fact that it was on a marae. There was just this desire to perhaps reconnect."
"Ngati Whatua trustee Ngarimu Blair said the iwi jumped at the chance to help.
"We are reaching a phase in our revitalisation in Auckland where we can more and more begin to look at how we can help others," he said."Inclusive not exclusive
"The supervisor of the iwi's plant nursery, Te Hira Hawke, said the streeties were good workers.
"I always thought they were mostly drunkards," he said. "They're not. Some people here have some really hard-luck stories. They're not drink or drug-dependent, they've just had a hard time."
He appealed to the public for gardening tools, shade cloths, poles, seeds, seedlings and topsoil - "anything to do with gardening".
"We need a bit of help to help them," he said. "I know there are people out there that are kind-hearted."So, if you can help - please do. This is a good example of community building, focusing on achieveable results. Growing food, connecting with culture, working together - these are the solutions to the problems we face. When people need a hand - we should give a hand. It could be us next time.