ALEVEL 3 course in organic horticulture began with a powhiri for 14 students in Whanganui's Matipo St on Tuesday.

It's an initiative of the Matipo Community Development Charitable Trust, and the welcome ceremony was at the trust's community garden in the Kokohuia street.

The course will be run by Agriculture New Zealand in conjunction with the Wai Ora Christian Community Trust, Wai Ora CEO Marama Dey said.

Wai Ora has its base in Brunswick Rd, and is running a Level 2 horticulture course there this year. The Level 3 course will be run in Matipo St as a satellite. It will use the community garden and an empty Housing New Zealand house across the street as a classroom.


The Matipo trust began life three years ago, when the "visionary" late Craig Rippon and others wanted a better life for their whanau. They saw education as a key to jobs and to eventually starting their own small businesses.

"Where this group wants to go is to run their own businesses and employ their own guys," Ms Dey said.

They had started with a community garden on land from Whanganui District Council, and went to Wai Ora for help learning to grow it.

"For Maori the whenua is important to us. Without the land and without growing kai there's no further generations. If we are growing kai and our people are unemployed, at least they can eat."

To get Primary ITO qualifications the students need literacy and numeracy skills too. Many had missed out on those.

YMCA Central has helped with that. There are seven students from the trust doing literacy, numeracy, ICT and cooking this year with Sandy Leyland.

Last year's Level 2 horticulture students had to get NCEA Level 2 in the same year, and they did.

"A lot of them were people who've missed out on education in school and life, full stop, and been seen as going nowhere. We are just so really, really proud of them, because they have worked really hard and achieved."

The community garden is at the dead end of Matipo St. Raised beds have been built, lined with newspaper and cardboard and filled with compost donated by the Nga Hononga Marae Trust working just across the paddock.

The garden has fed the community for three years, Ms Dey said, and fruit trees have now been added.

She's one of the eight Matipo Community Development Charitable Trust trustees. Carlos Rippon is the chairman.

He and Wayne "Chopper" Temoananui are grateful for all the help they have had - from Wai Ora, Nga Hononga Marae Trust and Whanganui District Council. Porter Hire has also helped with a bulldozer, and Dave Hoskin Carriers has helped truck in sawdust.