Community Gardens: Maroochy Community Permaculture Group

The Maroochy Community Permaculture Group was established in 2002 and is built on crown land, leased from council. The community gardens are built over two tennis courts with an old basketball court providing an area for aquaponics and a new straw bale building, and an existing house is used as a classroom, meeting room and office. The group has a strong focus on education and regular classes. This includes TAFE courses and Work for the Dole programs which are held at the gardens to teach people about growing and producing their own food.

Any people wanting hands-on learning about unusual plants, water wise gardening, growing chemical-free vegetables all year round and permaculture itself can get involved with the group. On certain days of the week, the gardens are supervised by an accredited permaculture teacher with advice and guidance offered.

The group was set up through a $130,000 grant which provided three years of wages. Then initial members got burnt out and drifted away. The site has remained successful primarily through the dedication of one person who teaches a TAFE course from the site and supervises Work for the Dole people one day a week. It is the income from TAFE leasing the site, and the labour from the Work for the Dole program which has kept the site running. However, recent grants of $49,000 from a federal community water grant, $10,000 from Council to build a straw bale building and $25,000 for a solar voltaic system to show case environmental building design have rekindled community interest.

Lessons learnt

  • It costs at least $10,000 a year to keep the community gardens running. Funding is available for projects, but rarely available for the coordinators
  • Following the early success of the gardens, it became difficult to manage after the initial funding dried up and the original volunteers tired. It is important not to get too big too fast
  • The gradual development of the site, supported by funding for small, one-off projects, helps maintain the interest and enthusiasm of the broader community
  • The support of a council officer who has enthusiasm for permaculture and community gardens has assisted with funding
  • Funding for the main project support person, even nominal funding, is recommended. This person is generally involved for a love of gardening, but can eventually burn out. If people are not retained, the project can cease.

 

Resources:

The Maroochy Community Permaculture Group
41 Farrell St., Yandina, Phone: 07 5446 7373
Email: maroochypermaculture@bigpond.com