26 Apr Working towards a revolution in yards around Auckland
Project Yard 1.0 is a partnership which brings together expertise from across the environmental sector, including expertise from Jim’s Mowing. The initiative encompasses a range of goals around environmental education, waste management, reduction in pest plants and improving biodiversity. Often large-scale environmental programmes target public land, but the reality is that 80% of land in Auckland region is in private ownership. Much of it in Auckland yards. This project recognises that by supporting positive change in private land, the wider environmental goals in the Auckland region could be reached.
A critical piece in this puzzle is the Jim’s Mowing franchisees who work in many of these privately owned yards. Project Yard 1.0 brings environmental knowledge and training to Jim’s Mowing franchisees, enabling them to offer extra services to their customers. Services like; pest plant identification and clearing, recommendations for native plants and planting, and waste management and composting.
How did Project Yard 1.0 Get Started?
Project Yard 1.0 is the brainchild of Challen Wilson (Director of The Sisters Consultancy) and Stefan Meier (Jim’s Mowing Green Bay franchisee). As volunteers, Challen and Stefan have both enjoyed learning about environmental opportunities from the experts at Kaipātiki Project, a North Shore based, Auckland environmental organisation. Challen was also aware of Auckland Council’s (AC) massive spend trying to manage environmental concerns. In 2017 Auckland Council tagged an investment of $307 million over ten years to remove pests from public land. This aspiration would severely miss the mark without the participation of people tending to private land too.
Challen comments: “The idea came out of conversations Stefan and I were having with people at Kaipātiki Project. I intuitively put the three concepts together – AC’s desire for more pest control and increased biodiversity, the environmental knowledge and training packages held by key people at Kaipātiki Project, and Jim’s Mowing in the Auckland region who have people actually on the ground.”
While the idea for Project Yard 1.0 came almost seamlessly, the hands-on work to achieve its potential has already spanned three years. From planning, achieving funding from Auckland Council to creating the prototype for the programme, designing the workshops, and practicing the training. At each point Challen and the project partners have put in the hours required to form a robust plan for the vision going forward. Presently, the Project Yard 1.0 team is all set to run its first full 2021 programme workshop on 1 May for a group of Auckland and Auckland North Jim Mowing franchisees.
Who Else is Involved in Project Yard 1.0?
As Project Yard 1.0 gathered momentum it found two additional partners. The first, Uru Whakaaro, introduced a unique flavour to the project, applying and teaching environmental practices from a kaupapa Māori perspective, with intellectual property on this component being shared by key partner and restorative ecologist, Charmaine Bailie, Director of Uru Whakaaro. This practice is based in a rich, timeless tradition of acting in partnership with the whenua (land) with the benefit, in turn, of being nourished by the whenua. Concepts of community, sustainability and standing up to protect the land are key.
The other partner for Project Yard 1.0, The Compost Collective, add knowledge and training around waste management and soil improvement, both of which are valuable contributors for the overall vision in Auckland region’s environmental improvements. And this learning forms the potential for another valuable service for Jim’s Mowing customers.
Jim’s Mowing are a Key Part of the Team
Project Yard 1.0 became a reality when Jim’s Mowing Auckland franchisor Alex Smith, and Auckland North franchisor Gary Turton, came on board. Challen has been blown away by how supportive both Alex, and his partner Greg, and Gary have been, especially when COVID-19 crunched up the 2020 timeline for the monitoring phase to go live. This support has seen the Jim’s Mowing franchisors going the extra mile, in the 2021 iteration, Gary stars in the videos going out to the local franchisees to invite them along to the workshop.
Alex also notes: “I can see benefit to our businesses, and we’ll work with our guys to help them realise it, but I can also see the bigger picture of leaving the land better than we find it. Right now, both goals inspire me.”
Gathering together key people who can offer environmental training has been the first major step. The next step is seeing that training realised by the Jim’s Mowing franchisees. Effectively they form a bridge, connecting the trainers to private land owners. Project Yard 1.0 will be successful when Jim’s Mowing franchisees are able to share environmentally important information with their customers and encourage their customers to make positive changes in their yards.
What’s Next for Project Yard 1.0?
Project Yard 1.0 is at an exciting phase. After the 1 May workshop, the project is gearing up to commence the monitoring phase. In this phase, the project needs between 2 and 4 Jim’s Mowing franchisees to engage, and the project connects them into a photo diary based on iNaturalist. Between them they need to visit 20 yards over a 3-month period, uncovering pests, talking about waste management, and presenting opportunities for native planting. It is a given that Jim’s Mowing Green Bay franchisee, Stefan Meier as a partner to the project, is inspired to participate in the monitoring.
As he says: “I’m really keen to see how the knowledge I gain will make a difference for my customers and for the Auckland region”.
The Project Yard 1.0 team will then take these results back to Auckland Council as evidence of the potential that is available to make a difference for the wider environment in Auckland. From there the vision is to facilitate a much more encompassing Project Yard 2.0 with ongoing funding and a wider reach. So, watch this space, as the Project Yard 1.0 team hope to bring this opportunity to other areas.
Photo Credit: Luke McKewon | Photo 1 Caption: Jim’s Mowing franchisees learning in the ngahere;
Photo 2 Caption: Charmaine Bailie teaching native restoration in the back yard;
Photo 3 Caption: The first Project Yard 1.0 workshop from right, facing; Charmaine – Uru Whakaaro, Challen – The Sisters Consultancy, Greg – Auckland franchisor, and Ryohei – franchisee for Te Atatu South.