Future of Mataura garden subject to be discussed

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During its nine-year life, the Mataura Community Garden has flourished and fed about 50 families a week, but now one of its stalwarts is stepping down and its future is at a crossroads.

A community meeting is to be held in the town on March 7, at 7.30pm, at the senior citizens rooms, to discuss the garden’s future.

Trained horticulturist and former market gardener Matthew Lucassen has been one of the driving forces behind the project which had developed and grown, but now he has decided it is time to step down.

He was keen for Mataura people to step up and take on leadership roles, he said.

Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks is to attend the meeting and Mataura Community Board chairman Alan Taylor will chair it.

Mr Lucassen said there was a core group of volunteers that kept the gardens ticking over.

The volunteers carried out a wide range of tasks from raising seedlings, planting, tending vegetables, herbs and fruit trees, to harvesting and distributing the produce from a purpose-built kiosk, he said.

He paid tribute to the loyal, hardworking volunteers who turned up regularly to make sure the garden ran smoothly.

The purpose of the meeting was to gauge public opinion on how the garden should be run.

The gardens are open to the Mataura community on Saturday mornings and a gold coin donation is given in exchange for a bag of vegetables.

“People are very generous. They give more than a gold coin,” Mr Lucassen said.

“Support from the community has been very good, but now we are looking for new leadership.”

This season had been very busy and demand for produce was high, he said.

Amazingly, though, there was still surplus produce.

Not only residents but also organisations such as Mataura Meals on Wheels used vegetables from the garden, he said.

The garden is sited partly on council land and a portion of private land. It includes a kiosk, a storage unit, covered morning tea area, a large tunnel house and a toilet.

“What is on the property now is all built by the volunteers,” Mr Lucassen said.

There was also a good range of tools and equipment, all of it donated.

“And we’ve got our own water supply.”

Mr Taylor paid tribute to the volunteers who had been involved from the start, including Mr Lucassen. It involved a much larger commitment than just turning up on a Saturday morning. Some volunteers carried out tasks such as weeding and watering plants during the week.

It would be good to involve more people in the project.

“It is a real asset to the town,” Mr Taylor said.