Fri, Feb 9, 2024 9:32 AM

Community garden costs continue to grow in Waitohi Picton


Maia Hart

A $22,000 funding boost for a community garden project in Waitohi Picton could see the idea finally get off the ground.

The Marlborough District Council first approved the gardens in 2018, following a submission to its annual plan. At that stage, the gardens were planned for Picton's Beach Road Reserve.

But due to “unforeseen circumstances” the project could not go ahead at that site. So in 2022, the council approved $15,500 for the establishment of a garden at Huia St, along with a requirement for a lease to be entered into with Envirohub Marlborough.

At an assets and services meeting last week, council’s parks and open spaces planner Linda Craighead told councillors some establishment works needed to be undertaken for the Huia St site.

Those works, which included fencing a horse paddock, installing a car park, water connection and safety improvements to the Marina to Marina pathway had been budgeted at more than $25,000.

A report prepared for the meeting said Envirohub had agreed to contribute $3000, but additional funding of $22,400 was required.

Marlborough Sounds ward councillor Barbara Faulls asked why the council had to foot the bill to fence the horse, and whether it was possible to stage the construction of the car park.

But Linda said the horse grazed the whole paddock where the community garden would go, so it had always been the case that the council would take on the bill.

“They are effectively losing part of that space for the horse.

“In terms of that car park, that is a very low-key car park. That's not asphalt, painted or anything like that.”

It would also be used by people who used the Marina to Marina track, not just the community garden.

Blenheim ward councillor Deborah Dalliessi was concerned the extra funding could “set a precedent” for other funding applications.

“While I'm sure this is a really good project, and I like it, it raises the question for me, of process,” she said.

“If they had come to the council initially, and asked for $40,000, what would we have said then?

“Really, is this a blow out? Why weren't we aware of these costs when it was first raised and asked for?”

A horse grazing paddock in Picton will soon be made smaller to make way for a community garden. Photo: Supplied/Stuff

Linda said costs were significantly different to what they were when the project was first looked at.

“Some of it was anticipated but not to the extent to which the costs have now come in,” she said.

She said the original Beach Rd site already had a water connection. Water connection at the Huia St site was budgeted at $7600.

Marlborough mayor Nadine Taylor backed the project.

“The longevity of it is quite surprising because I do recall I was a new councillor when the community came and wanted to set up this community garden, she said.

“It was something that we thought was really right for this community, it had good solid backing.

“I think to explain ... when they came and presented to us they were focusing their budget on their garden, and the set-up of the community garden.”

She thought the latest request for funding was more around making the public spaces that surrounded the garden safer and more user-friendly.

“The water connection is a little bit of a surprise, but these infrastructure things do have a tendency to surprise us from time to time.

“But I wouldn't say $7000 is the biggest blow-out we've seen in water infrastructure projects.

“I think council backed this project really early on and the community is quite ready for it.”

Deputy mayor David Croad supported Taylor’s comments.

“At the end of the day, there's a great community down there doing something really good for the community,” David said.

The assets and services committee approved the grant, which was subject to full council approval.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ on Air.

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