We may have discovered a very pleasant and community-minded solution to this gripe from CB: "Whangarei fruit trees are laden with fruit, much of it going to waste. I complain to myself every year while driving to and from work. Kensington area and Tikipunga, especially. Nobody picks the fruit, which then rots on the ground. Fruit wasted year after year."

As it happens, in September last year we wrote about a very nice "mad, fruit lady" in Auckland who drives the suburbs in search of fruit going to waste. Lemons were her specialty, but all free fruit is good fruit.

It turns out there was more to the story than one person's crusade and a passion for lemons. Behind it all is an organisation called Community Fruit Harvesting. It has 19 groups around the country with hundreds of volunteer pickers - 200 in Auckland alone. There is also a team of 45 jam and marmalade makers and a team of lemon squeezers that make lemonade.

According to the group's Facebook page, its mission is to share our neighbourhood's harvest of fruit with the community - especially those in need. What a great initiative.
To find a group near you, visit the website www.pickfruit.co.nz Give them a call if you have fruit going to waste, or if you can help with fruit picking or making marmalade.

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CB will be pleased to know there's a local Community Fruit Harvesting group in Whangarei. Visit www.facebook.com/pickfruitwhg or email pickfruitwhg@gmail.com
Now is definitely the time to plant fruit trees. There are literally thousands of backyards that could be home to at least one fruit tree. So think about that the next time you are burning petrol and energy mowing your lawns.

There's another little "can-do" story we wish to share. Last weekend the New Zealand Herald ran an article called "Student becomes property investor". It was about a young chap from Auckland who bought his first property at age 22.

The article says he bought a modest $300,000 property in Hamilton "after scraping together $45,000 through hard work and financial compromise". He now rents out the property for $300 a week, which pays for itself. He had hoped to buy in Auckland, but then prices just raced away so he decided to do the next best thing and invest in a city not too far from Auckland.

How did he manage to scrape together enough for the deposit? He "saved the money while studying towards a commerce and science degree by working from 9pm to 5am each night at Countdown supermarket during his first year".

He also lived modestly and rent-free at his parents' home. Things have since moved on and the happy property owner is now renting in Auckland and will no doubt be looking to buy another property sometime in the near future. Sounds simple, and it's even easier if you happen to be in KiwiSaver (but you have to live in your first home for at least six months after purchase).

We think there is too much negative commentary about affordable housing, mostly by those in the business of being negative. Housing in big cities is always much more expensive than elsewhere - try buying a place in Sydney or London.

Big city property is usually only affordable to big income earners or those with money already, but that does not mean a person can't get a start by buying property elsewhere and renting if they work in a big city.

Thanks so much for your questions and tips - please keep them coming! You can send in your ideas and join the Oily Rag mailing list by visiting www.oilyrag.co.nz - or you can write to us at Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

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* Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Read tips at oilyrag.co.nz