Environment Network Manawatū (ENM) has awarded grants totalling $50,000 to nine groups with great ideas that will benefit local people and make visible changes to Palmerston North’s environment.

The grants from ENM’s Environmental Initiatives Fund, ranging from $500 to nearly $11,000, are set to unleash a flurry of activity on increasing biodiversity, minimizing waste, tackling climate change, encouraging sustainable living and enabling local people to come together to improve the community.

Food security and sustainable living is a focus of the awards, so Plant to Plate Aotearoa has been funded to extend their programme teaching schoolchildren how to grow fruit and vegetables, with older pupils passing on their knowledge to younger students. Schools are encouraged to set up a kitchen to use the produce and a school garden manager will check on the gardens’ progress. As well as the educational and environmental benefits, the scheme helps to address food poverty as the students get to eat their harvest.

“The children enjoy the experience,” comments Stewart Harrex, co-chair of ENM, “and the project helps those families who are struggling financially.”

Another attempt to get more people growing food by Growing Gardens and Communities will see volunteers help people to set up fruit and vegetable gardens. Neighbours will be encouraged to regularly help one another in their gardens and each month a mentor will work with up to four gardeners in an area. Supergrans Manawatū aim to prevent food waste by teaching people how to preserve fruit, which will then be distributed to food banks.

Square Edge Arts Centre’s courtyard will become a community garden supplying fresh fruit, vegetables and materials for making home remedies and artwork. The vision is to transform what is currently a rather run-down and unused area into a green inner-city sanctuary to improve people’s well-being and provide a welcoming place for the centre’s many users and the wider community to gather. The planting of a wide range of flowering plants, herbs, shrubs and climbers will also have major environmental benefits by improving air and soil quality and cooling a space that can be too hot to be comfortably used in summer.

An award will allow Upcycling Club 1 to offer free fun arts and crafts workshops for participants to create beautiful and useful objects using recycled and natural materials. Open to all, the events at Te Manawa will give local people the chance to try their hand at a wide range of creative activities. On offer will be activities as diverse as: paper making; weaving; origami; collage; Halloween and Christmas ornaments; table top gardens; aquariums; and making a kiwi forest.

As well as giving people a chance to try different activities in a fun and relaxed setting, the workshops also aim to teach participants about conservation and environmental issues.The walkway/education zone at Keeble’s Bush will undergo further development thanks to an ENM grant. This protected bush reserve is regarded as one of the finest remaining examples of podocarp/broadleaf lowland forest in the Manawatū and came about due to the efforts of Michael Greenwood some fifty years ago. The funding will enable the installation of new paths and

Growing Gardens & Communities at work in the community garden in Awapuni.

boardwalks with accompanying information boards allowing passers-by the opportunity to learn about a range of plants and understand how ecological thinking about extinct birds and their role in our landscape has changed over time. They will also show how Michael had such an impact on how we understand and interact with our environment, and the measures we can take to help counteract climate change.

Wholegrain Organics has received funding to document the benefits of regenerative agriculture in the fight against climate change by reducing the risk of nitrates running off into waterways, protecting against erosion and capturing carbon through building-up humus. The project will also examine how easily transferable such methods are for existing New Zealand vegetable producers.

ENM is supporting the development of innovative GO-BIO technology by the Zero Waste Academy. The Academy believes that discarded materials are resources and the aim of zero waste is the sustainable management of resources throughout the whole life cycle of economic production.

The GO-BIO project will enable more organic waste to be diverted from landfill through conversion into a high quality soil addition that will enhance local soil and food growing systems. The GO-BIO technology can bring this about by more people and in more locations, at a lower cost and carbon footprint than any existing technology. GO-BIO also seeks to support zero waste training and research in the Asia-Pacific region which is experiencing a growing environmental and health crisis.

Stewart Harrex, co-chair of ENM, says: “We’re proud to enable these groups to realise big ideas which will make a real difference by supporting positive change for Palmerston North and the wider environment.”