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Thriving in the South

Community connections and produce at Crop Swap at The Pod in South Invercargill. Photo: Nikki Aaron.
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Sharing excess garden produce, home baking or foraged finds is the latest healthy growth in South Invercargill, where this community has come together in an exciting example of rejuvenation.

This area of New Zealand’s southernmost city is now vibrant with facilities and activities under the South Alive banner, community development co-ordinator Nikki Aaron, says.

The area does look and feel very nice now…it’s a very vibrant place to be.”

The rejuvenation includes a community garden and park, hanging baskets, an art gallery, basketball court and community meeting spaces. For a few years now, community members have been picking up rubbish together and one group has planted more than 70 fruit and nut trees.

Adding colour and flavour to the neighbourhood: South Alive’s colourful Community Garden in South Invercargill. Photo: Nikki Aaron.

A housing group gives “random recognition” awards for budding gardens, recognises good landlords and offers electric blanket testing before winter.

The Pantry is a social enterprise retail shop for bulk foods and wholefoods, earning money for the South Alive Trust, which Nikki says aims to be self-sufficient long-term.

Crop Swap

Crop Swap Aotearoa began in the North Island in 2014. The Invercargill Crop Swap sprung up in April and is one of the first in the South Island.

One Saturday a month in South Invercargill, people bring their apples, tomatoes, potatoes, silver beet, eggs, chutneys, plants, seeds, seedlings, hazelnuts and even a kombucha tea starter and foraged walnuts to The Pod community centre for Crop Swap.

Fresh produce, nuts and green tomato chutney for swapping…April’s Crop Swap in South Invercargill. Photo: Nikki Aaron.

They lay their produce on a table, introduce themselves, then take what they like from the table. No money changes hands; it is a pure swap.

It’s an opportunity for people to come together who have any extra produce in their garden…to share your excess produce,” Nikki explains.

“It’s been really awesome, we’ve had a great response…hopefully it continues to grow.”

This past summer, people had dropped off loads of rhubarb and apples to South Alive’s plant bank. A community member, Kathryn Shakespear, thought Crop Swap would be a good idea and organised it. South Alive supports Crop Swap by providing a space.

“It came about from realising that there was excess produce going around,” Nikki says. “It’s a great way for people to connect as well.”

This seems typical of the rejuvenation which started in South Invercargill in 2012.

South comes alive

Previous attempts to gather the community together hadn’t been successful, she says. However, following a public meeting, action teams formed around what the community identified as its priorities.

Thus began South Alive, or the South Invercargill Urban Rejuvenation Charitable Trust. It is community-led and relies heavily on volunteer labour, she says.

A core of about 60 volunteers is joined by more than 300 volunteers on a casual basis, coming from all over Invercargill. The Invercargill City Council provides strong support.

Residents also come from throughout Invercargill when South Alive organises events, Nikki says.

A survey showed that in 2012, 35% of South Invercargill residents felt proud of their community. By 2015, this had risen to 82.5%.

Sharing sunshine and community at South Alive’s Night Food Market in South Invercargill. Photo: Corrina Housham.

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For more information:

Go to the South Alive website click here

Go to Crop Swap Aoteraroa New Zealand click here

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