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Thames School Plants Traditional Māori Medicinal Garden

Moanataiari School in Thames recently completed a new edible and medicinal garden for their students, as one of ten winners in this year's inaugural Keep New Zealand Beautiful Kai Garden Competition.

The competition gives schools and ECEs from across the country the opportunity to create a small kai or rongoā garden to help their students develop a greater understanding of the natural world and to gain hands-on experience gardening for their school.

The primary school named the project Māra hauroa, which means healthy garden. The school had the aim to create a unique and distinct rongoā (traditional Māori medicinal) garden to provide comfort and nourishment for the mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing of their students.

Julie White, office and project administrator, say that the garden is in the shape of a koru, symbolising new life, growth, strength, and peace while also being accessible for "students, whānau, staff and our community to wander through, touch, taste and smell the plants and to simply sit within the garden and reap the rewards of a beautiful outdoor space."

In making the edible garden, the school wanted to ensure a good range of medicinal plants, so local experts were called in to help with the design. "We invited Te Raukura Sayer, a local Rongoā Practitioner, to advise us on best plants and location," says Ms. White. In addition, reclaimed materials were used from the nearby Seagull Centre, a community recycling and resource recovery facility.

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Moanataiari School also has many other sustainability and garden initiatives, including rainwater collection, an irrigation system, solar panels and battery, processes for recycling and composting, and efficient LED lighting. "We will recycle our rainwater from our tanks to ensure the plants get established and are well looked after. We have a system in place already that allows our students to fill watering cans from the tanks and transport them by wheelbarrows to our different gardens. Our students have regular gardening time and they will be able to tend to the garden."

The school also aims to research the making of products such as Kawakawa Balm that can then be marketed as a fundraiser.

"We would like to thank Keep New Zealand Beautiful for this opportunity and the funding," says Ms. White. "We have enjoyed this project and seeing it come to life through the student's work. We also look forward to the future of this garden and the benefits we will gain from the plants."

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