A Syrian refugee trying to build a new life in Lower Hutt is heartbroken after vandals destroyed his garden.

Khaled Al Jouja moved to the area about 18 months ago, and for the past month had been growing plants in his backyard to turn into a business.

Common Unity Project founder Julia Milne said Al Jouja is one of their gardeners, but alongside that had been developing his own business to try and get off the benefit and into self employment.

"Everyone's been wrapped around him since he got here, supporting him to help him realise his dream of getting his nursery going and doing what he loves to do best... growing trees and flowers."


But on Tuesday morning Al Jouja went out with his family, and on his return discovered his garden had been vandalised.

Milne said pretty much all of it is gone.

"Just vandalised, destroyed. It's been a very heartbreaking time for him and his family.

"He drove over to see me and he couldn't speak. He had filmed it on his phone and he needed someone to come with him because he was clearly very distressed and shocked and he didn't really have any words. He's still trying to make sense of it now.

"I can't imagine why anyone would want to hurt of damage anything that he did."

Milne said she had no way of knowing whether the attack was targeted, "but when I went to his house it was very clear what they had destroyed was all of the stuff that was ready for market.

"There was a lot of other things that were left, tiny seedlings outside the greenhouse weren't touched, just all of his stock.

"That did make us this think there was something sitting behind this."


Milne said that is how Al Jouja has said it feels to him too.

"That's the first time he's ever felt that living in New Zealand, he and his family have had such an amazingly positive experience of integrating and becoming New Zealanders so this is rather shocking."

Police had visited the garden and done some leaflet drops.

Milne said moving forward they want to restore Al Jouja's faith and celebrate him and the other refugee and migrant families living in Lower Hutt.

She said they are putting on an event this Saturday from 10am at the community enterprise hub in Waiwhetu Road.

Milne said anyone is welcome to join, and is encouraged to bring potting mix and any cuttings they may have to help get him going again.

"Khaled loves to grow roses so if anyone has really precious roses or something special they could bring cuttings.

"We want to build something good out of this and strengthen our community from the inside out."

Event details and how to help here