'Special community effort': Turning the red zone into a berry garden

The land on Richmond Hill will soon be covered in raspberries, strawberries and blueberries....
The land on Richmond Hill will soon be covered in raspberries, strawberries and blueberries. Photo: Supplied
Work has started to turn a piece of land in the abandoned Christchurch red zone into a berry garden.

Paul Cragg.
Paul Cragg.
The garden at Richmond Hill will be a place where the community can meet, forage and learn how to grow their own berries.

Sumner Community Garden volunteer Paul Cragg is spearheading the project.

"Although level 4 lockdown didn’t help the project, we’ve since got it off the ground," he said.

"It distressed me every day when I walked, biked or drove past the empty and unused red zone land.

"I hope this will be a pilot project that will inspire others to apply to use red zone land too."

Cragg has been pottering in the garden since the start of the month.

There has been two full working bees with members of the community helping to plant the first raspberry seedlings.

He said it’s been a "special community effort" with "plants, trees, herbs, compost, a table and time" all gifted to the project.

Sumner resident Kevin Hay broke in some of the land with a rotary hoe.

Members of the community planted the first raspberry seedlings at the working bees. Photo: Supplied
Members of the community planted the first raspberry seedlings at the working bees. Photo: Supplied
When Cragg first thought of the idea this year, he approached Land Information New Zealand, which then owned titles to 440 Port Hills red zone properties, for permission to use some of the Richmond Hill land.

"Unfortunately, LINZ didn’t want people on it, but the city council had a different perspective,” Cragg said.

The red zone titles were transferred to Christchurch City Council in July.

"The city council then gave us the go-ahead to use the safe areas of red zone land," Cragg said.

"We are the first group to have applied for red zone land use this way and because of this it was an interesting process since the city council didn’t have a process but the red zone rangers who we’ve worked with have been great.”

Cragg learned about growing berries through his work with the community garden.

The berry garden is situated on land where three properties used to stand, opposite the Sumner Bowling Club.

Sumner Hub co-ordinator Charlie Hudson said the berry garden is “a great example of activating spaces that aren’t currently being used for the community.”

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