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Stories and veg changing spaces

A colourful al fresco library and a thriving community-supported agriculture farm are in the running for national awards – for revitalising previously unused spaces and uplifting communities in the process.

Martinborough’s StoryWalk® and Vagabond Vege in Greytown made the shortlist for the 2024 Kūmara Awards, organised by Placemaking Aotearoa. The awards, held since 2020 and presented in the Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury regions, recognise groups and individuals that have helped transform public spaces and, in doing so, made “a positive difference” to their hometowns.

StoryWalk®, a guided walkway in Considine Park featuring pages from children’s books on weatherproof boards, was nominated in the Beyond the Brief category – recognising physical spaces that are “more than what is expected or required”.

Vagabond Vege is a finalist in the Caring for the Land, Caring for the People category: Its team nominated for converting a paddock full of rocks into a “vegetable paradise”, feeding more than 70 Wairarapa families.

The awards, across five categories, will be presented at a ceremony in Wellington tomorrow evening.

Martinborough community activator Charlotte Harding, who had been involved with StoryWalk® since its inception as part of the Friends of Martinborough Library, said she was “really chuffed” the project made the shortlist.

“I think StoryWalk® epitomises what placemaking is all about: A really simple concept, set up in a beautiful green space [the tree-lined path around Considine Park] that hasn’t been used as often, which has had a big impact,” Harding said.

“It’s been so successful – children and families are visiting pretty much every weekend, and then going out and buying the books, or borrowing them from the library. It’s just beautiful.”

Harding said StoryWalk®, a partnership between Wairarapa Library Service, Martinborough Men’s Shed, and South Wairarapa District Council, has also been a great way to showcase works by Martinborough authors and illustrators: Such as Mr Phelps’ Fish Truck by Phillip and Dale Percy and Ziggy and His Wiggly Mind, illustrated by Becs Reilly.

StoryWalk® also displays books to celebrate moments of national significance, such as Anzac Day, Matariki, and Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori.

“We’re really hoping we can support our local libraries to have a storywalk in each Wairarapa town,” Harding said.

Vagabond Vege was launched in 2022 by friends Elle Farr, Sheldon Levet, Saskia Wanklyn and Lisa Van Laere, and grows a vide variety of vegetable crops – from carrots, to beetroot, to kale and broccoli – using no-till, chemical-free practices.

Co-founder Wanklyn said she had barely had time to think about the Kūmara Awards, as the team had been “pretty slammed” in preparation for its winter growing season. Nevertheless, she was thrilled by how the community has embraced Vagabond Vege and its bounty of produce.

“It’s pretty awesome. It’s been a real privilege to provide something that’s such a necessity to so many families,” Wanklyn said.

“To be able to care for the whenua, and to bring local people vegetables that are full of nutrition, has brought us immense satisfaction.”

For more information about the Kūmara Awards, go to https://www.placemaking.nz/the-kumara-awards.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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