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LA’s Gangsta Gardener inspiring Hutt Valley communities

LA’s Gangsta Gardener Ron Finley was in the Hutt Valley last week, sharing his experience of turning unused city spaces into food-producing gardens.

Back in 2010 when Ron planted vegetables on the grassy verge outside his house he ran into trouble with the authorities. He challenged the status quo, succeeded in changing the rules and at the same time transforming his community in South Central Los Angeles. Now he is on a mission to inspire other communities to do the same.

Te Awakairangi Health Network, Healthy Families Lower Hutt and Hutt City Council supported Ron Finley to come to Lower Hutt in partnership with Visa Wellington On a Plate.

TeAHN’s Chief Executive Bridget Allan was in Stokes Valley and Wainuiomata on Friday 17 August to hear Ron speak and to get stuck in creating a shared garden as part of He Kai, He Whenua. Hosted by TiHei Rangatahi, Wainuiomata Marae and Love Wainuiomata it was a celebration of how community’s role as kaitiaki of māra kai is transforming communities.

Reflecting on the events, Bridget says that Ron laid down some challenges about how our communities were designed and about taking responsibility for changing and improving them.

“He validated what we’re working on with Healthy Families Lower Hutt, where communities define what they need and want, to make their lives and those of their families better,” Bridget says.

“It is about people living good, healthy lives that work for them.”

Speaking later to Radio New Zealand, Ron Finley described his original curb side garden as a symbol and an inspiration.

“To me it is basically a demonstration of the possibilities of how we can change our environment and not wait for someone else to change it for us,” Ron said. “I wanted people to know that this doesn’t have to be like this, this can change and you should be the one to change it.”

Bridget hopes Ron’s work will prove inspirational in the Hutt Valley as it has done elsewhere around the world.

“For Ron, gardening is about beauty, it’s about creating plenty and about sharing and community,” she says. “I’m looking forward to seeing more gardens springing up around the Hutt Valley, with more fruit trees, and safe places for our kids to play and learn.”