In partnership with The Southern Initiative (Auckland City Council), Cook Island Development Agency of New Zealand (CIDANZ), Auckland Teaching Gardens Trust and Resilio Studios.

The Mangere-Otahuhu district of Auckland, New Zealand, boasts a growing, youthful population, with 60% identifying as ‘Pasifika’. Community spirit is strong, but the area faces high levels of economic deprivation. The Southern Initiative (TSI) is an entity within Auckland Council, tasked with creating transformational change in the region. TSI manages a 1900 hectare block of council land, currently occupied by Auckland Teaching Gardens and the Cook Islands Development Agency (NZ), both with distinct visions for the land – one wanting to extend existing food gardens; the other wanting to build a multi-use community centre. Auckland University of Technology design students were invited to explore the possibilities.

The students used a co-design framework to assess needs and opportunities, and to bring the parties to work together on mutually acceptable solutions. The outcome was a comprehensive five-year plan that implemented the closed-loop vertical integration scheme championed by the teaching gardens. Critically, this highlighted the benefits to Cook Island community, including the sharing of horticultural knowledge, and increased access to fresh produce for local families. The Cook Island group’s ambition to have a community hub and childcare centre on the site were also incorporated, but the plan for the built environment also included a semi-permanent farmer’s market and pop-up café, utilising produce from the gardens and staffed by the Cook Island community, thus strengthening the social connections between them. The AUT student plan is being implemented by Auckland City Council over the next five years.

Academic Supervisors: Lisa McEwan (AUT University); Gary Marshall (Resilio Studios).

Student designers: Celia Hall, Meighan van Malland, Laura MacQueen, Jenny Palmer, Hasmita Patel.