Unitec Hortecology Sanctuary Open Day


Mahi Whenua – a Garden of Eden for organics

This award-winning hortecology sanctuary is a flourishing centre of learning, practice and research into organic systems and sustainable land management. The sanctuary is certified by Organic Farm NZ and has been recognised regionally and nationally as a showcase for sustainability. There’s no better place in the country to learn about organics; it provides a live demonstration that conservation, biodiversity and successful production can co-exist, even in an urban environment.

You can participate in growing and caring for a wide range of organic plants and vegetables at Mahi Whenua, including some rare and endangered species. But you will learn a lot more than organic production. You will also learn about the implications of sustainability for the local and global community, and be involved in leading edge research into the use of integrated food systems.

The sanctuary is the brainchild of Brendan Hoare, former Senior Lecturer in Sustainable Design and Hortecology at Unitec, Founding Trustee and Executive Director of econation2020, Convenor of the Organic Federation of Aotearoa New Zealand; and Richard Main, former tutor and manager of the sanctuary. Brendan and Richard are passionate about the vision of New Zealand as an organic econation by 2020, a passion shared by all staff and students involved in developing Mahi Whenua. The sanctuary provides a perfect model of the planning, implementation and monitoring of productive landscape ecosystems.

But things change….unitec-hortecology-sanctuary-1

Unitec decided to discontinue its horticulture programme, and the world-renowned learning center for organics needed a new lease on life.  Working along the Sanctuary’s founders, organics experts Brendan Hoare and Richard Main, Forward helped coordinate 20 stakeholder groups, create a management plan and proposal for Unitec, and support a new operator for the site.  The result: Workforce Auckland championed as the new lease holder, community groups are setting up a trust to help operate the site going forward, and the general public will benefit from having this centre of excellence remain well into the future.

There has been steady progress in the development of the Unitec Hortecology Sanctuary since a new team started managing the site in late March. The Sanctuary is now managed and operated by Workforce Auckland, www.workforceauckland.org.nz an organisation which works with people with disabilities. Our mission is “To assist disabled Aucklanders to work in jobs of their choice.” The Sanctuary provides both direct employment for our employees and skill development.

There now is  an advisory board consisting of:

Finn Mackesy – Permaculture and education interests
Wendy John  –  Oakley Creek
Karen Mann –  Buchanen Trust and Oakley Creek
Logan O’Callahan – Community and Transition Town – Pt Chev
Brendan Hoare –  Retained as an advisor

Most exciting is the physical transformation of the site. The new site manager Ken Bremner and his team have been undertaking steady progress over the last 6 weeks.

You are invited to an open day on 6 June for all interested parties. The practical focus of the day will be the planting of garlic. This will be followed by an update and some time for an open discussion and a shared
lunch. So bring yourselves and your family, some work clothes and a picnic lunch.

Date: Saturday 6 June
Time: 10-12.30pm
Where: Untic Hortecology Sanctuary

Hot water, tea and milk will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you all there.


  1. this sounds awesome! such a brilliant skill for all young (an old) urbanites to learn…a lost art in our busy, transient culture…in a culture of dependance…self-suffiency and sustainability is the key…as little as a few metres of spare space can build a thriving vege garden which can be eaten and shared.

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