WHY IS THE SANCTUARY MAHI WHENUA A TAONGA?
A rich cultural heritage
The history of the Sanctuary Mahi Whenua highlights the importance of cultivating plants and food in this area throughout human settlement. The rich history tells a narrative of a space that has been used for centuries to provide and nurture surrounding inhabitants. As the Māori proverb Ka mua, Ka muri tells us, 'we learn from those who have gone before us'; or 'by understanding the past we can know the future'.
The rich, volcanic soils of this area are used as gardens by pre-European Māori. Some 12 Māori gardening implements are uncovered in the present Sanctuary Mahi Whenua in 2007 by Richard Main. One of these implements, an adze, is now embedded in the floor of Unitec's whare whakairo (carved meeting house) ‘Ngākau Māhaki’. This discovery has been recorded by the New Zealand Archaeological Association in ArchSite as NZAA Site Number R11/3134.
29 June 1841
The land is purchased on 29 June 1841 by the Crown as part of a block of about 12,000 acres that later became known as the "Waitemata to Manukau Purchase". Five Ngati Whatua chiefs, headed by Te Kawau, sold this block for £200, 4 horses, 30 blankets, 10 cloaks, 1 tent, and a desk (Russell Stone, 2010, From Tamaki-Makaurau to Auckland. Auckland University Press). European settlers buy surrounding blocks of land and clear it for farming. In 1855 Andrew Rooney purchases the spring site and it remains his property until 1873.
The grounds provide food for the asylum established there. The asylum has several different names over the 120 year period, originally as the Whau Lunatic Asylum and ending as Carrington / Oakley Hospital.
During the time when the land is used by the health care facilities, numerous prizes for produce and farming of the land are awarded. Commentaries on the beneficial quality the gardens provide to patients and the community are recorded and can be found in the News Archives for Auckland and New Zealand.
Brendan Hoare, Richard Main, and Unitec students plan and establish the gardens and food forest. Over the next 9 years the Unitec Hortecology Sanctuary Mahi Whenua receives regional, national, and international recognition as a showcase of organic systems and sustainable land management in an urban environment.
The ORGANICS 2020 conference is hosted at Unitec. A highly interactive and dynamic conference, it focuses on producing a realistic action plan for the whole organics movement within New Zealand, its main objective is to establish the steps and ultimate goals for making New Zealand an organic eco nation by the year 2020.
Sir John Turei gifts the Māori name Mahi Whenua to the Sanctuary. Mahi translates to work or toil (embracing all the emotions involved in the work and toil of gardening) and Whenua translates to land or placenta. Together Mahi Whenua correlated with one of the founding principles of the Sanctuary - a simple but profound principle - no work = no food.
The launch of the Organic Farm New Zealand organisation takes place at the Sanctuary Mahi Whenua. Jeanette Fitzsimmons planted a feijoa tree in her capacity as a Green Party Co-leader and Member of Parliament.
An Australian frangipani is planted at the Sanctuary Mahi Whenua on 25 February, during a visit by the Samoan Minister of Agriculture Tuisugaletaua Sofana Aveau and his delegation. https://www.facebook.com/SanctuaryCommunityOrganicGarden/photos/a.979825745423892.1073741
The Unitec Hortecology Sanctuary is certified organic, and also wins a gold award for an Auckland Create Your Own Eden competition.
Unitec discontinues its horticulture programme.
April 2009 - April 2011
The area is used by Workforce Auckland, an organisation working with people with disabilities.
October 2009: Sarah Abbott takes over day-to-day management of the Sanctuary Mahi Whenua.
The Sanctuary Mahi Whenua becomes a community garden, in which members can garden in an area of rich cultural heritage as well as outstanding biodiversity within an inner urban setting. By rejuvenating the food forest we are complementing the Oakley Creek restoration project.
25 March 2018
In a communication to Unitec's staff regarding the sale of land to the Government for the KiwiBuild programme, Interim Chief Executive Alastair Carruthers wrote: "Ownership of the Community Gardens will transfer to the Government as part of the sale, and the purchase agreement acknowledges the cultural and historical significance of the gardens, which will be preserved and maintained into the future."