A Whangārei early childhood centre is strengthening ties with the community through fruit and vegetables.

On Monday, BestStart Pipiwai Kindy opened its community garden "Te Koha" which contains mandarin trees, an apple tree, a lemonade tree and four garden boxes planted with lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower and leeks.

Centre manager Helen Carroll said the children already had their own gardens which they could eat from. But this garden meant they would have produce for their families, and the wider community.

"It's important for the children to learn there's a community there that they're apart of and they can contribute to. It's very much part of what they learn in early childhood.

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"We teach them about how to care for each other and how to care for their community," she said.

Kaumātua Fred Tito, Katana Graham, Chevelle Benson, BestStart Pipiwai Kindy manager Helen Carroll and kaumātua Dick Shepherd at the community garden opening. Photo / John Stone
Kaumātua Fred Tito, Katana Graham, Chevelle Benson, BestStart Pipiwai Kindy manager Helen Carroll and kaumātua Dick Shepherd at the community garden opening. Photo / John Stone

At the opening of the garden three kaumātua blessed it, and the children performed kapa haka.

Carroll said the centre's philosophy is teaching the children to care for the environment and each other.

She said last year they did a project on sustainability and through that decided to develop a community garden for the families.

"It's all about learning to care for your environment and care for each other. It's building that knowledge in them about their community, not just themselves."

Four-year-old Chevelle Benson gets stuck in. Photo / John Stone
Four-year-old Chevelle Benson gets stuck in. Photo / John Stone

Carroll said the centre had been working on the project, with help from Bunnings - which provided the soil and made the garden boxes - over the last few months.

"These gardens, the children are going to do all the planting and everything. They've helped us plant some of the first plants today, so that will continue. They will be part of caring for it, tending to it, and harvesting."

Carroll expected the first harvest would be in a couple of months.

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