Free Food in the Christchurch Red Zone

24 May


Today’s sustainable adventure was a trip into one of Christchurch’s earthquake-devastated suburbs, Bexley, to forage for forgotten fruit and veges. I was in two minds about the project. I didn’t want to disrespect or offend previous residents, but I didn’t want good food to go to waste. Though this practice is increasingly common, there is no clear protocol around foraging in the red zones (areas that are no longer inhabited, or inhabited by very few due to the land and/or houses being so broken). I made up my own protocol:

  • Take bottled fruit in case an opportunity arose to barter or thank residents.
  • Completely avoid homes where people were still living.
  • Plan to make a swift and respectful retreat should I be asked to.
  • Pause and reflect (not difficult).
  • Not strip entire trees or gardens of fruit and veg.
  • Go with a friend to be safe (today I went with my friend Janine).

It turns out there wasn’t much to be worried about. There was nobody around. The only person who walked past gave us a thumbs up as we dug potatoes.

Pretty much everything we found was from empty sections where houses had been removed. Although nature is taking over the properties, you can still see the trees and shrubs people had planted. There are beautiful roses and climbers, an abundance of native gardens, garden ornaments and wheelbarrows. Some of the plants will have been birthday presents or grown painstakingly from seed. Most will have been grown with green thumb love. Mother’s will have buried their baby’s placenta under some of these plants. It’s impossible to separate the human element from gardens, no matter how wild they’ve become. But such was the chaos, mess, and frustration of living in the red zone, that you can see people just left their gardens without looking back.

I came home with a bag of lemons, apples, potatoes, and lots of rainbow silverbeet for the chickens. Which, it turns out, they don’t like.

On the way home Janine and I stopped off at Willows Cafe where the chef gave us some free berry brulee treat and we gave him some of our free lemons.

An interesting day.





3 Responses to “Free Food in the Christchurch Red Zone”

  1. Scotty Moore May 25, 2013 at 5:25 am #

    Thank you for your wonderful description of peoples gardens.
    I am studying planning at University and would love to see an area where peoples gardens are preserved as a tribute to all the care, attention and hard work that went into many gardens accross the city.

    • sustainabilitywench May 25, 2013 at 5:52 am #

      That would be lovely. As I walked through, I actually thought of some it being an art installation, so people can still see the beauty in it. Thanks for reading!

      • deb August 19, 2013 at 6:50 am #

        I love my walks thru deserted red zone gardins…im a perennial lover so keenly observing those parts of gardins that continue to grow…countless Daphnes being plowed into the ground and even some witch hazel andwintersweets…so sad…the care and love of the older gardins is therre to see and
        now the iris’s are growing, tradescantia and winter roses…also tulips! cant wait for spring to see perennials push thru the liquifaction..those that can…

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