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Volunteer day: gardening for good at Kelmarna Gardens

6 August 2019

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Winter vegetable soup, laying seaweed bedding in a chicken coop and a focus on sustainability were just a few of the highlights of New Business Consultant Ashley Buck’s volunteer leave day at Kelmarna Gardens.

Read about Ashley’s volunteer day as it happened, in this day-in-the-life focus.

Early morning

Today I’m swapping my usual role (supporting new policy holders and our underwriters), for spades, soil, vegetables and chickens.

Along with three of my colleagues, I’m using my Asteron Life paid volunteer leave to help out at Auckland’s Kelmarna Gardens. It’s a city farm and organic community garden, dedicated to promoting sustainable living.

I’m originally from Canada. After living in Australia for two years, I arrived in New Zealand in 2016 and made the move to Auckland and my current role nine months later. I’m looking forward to using my volunteer leave day to give something back to the country I’ve travelled in and the city I’ve recently made home.


I’m surprised to find the garden is tucked away in the heart of Ponsonby – I had no idea it was here. It’s a large green space, full of vegetable patches, flower beds, garden buildings, chicken coops and beehives.

When we arrive we are met by Garden Manager Adrian Roche, who takes us on a tour and tells us about Kelmarna’s activities.

The garden educates school and community groups about sustainable practices, sells organic produce and provides a space for people with mental health issues. It relies on community grants and volunteers who help plant, weed and maintain the space as well as to sell its fruit and veggie produce.


My first job for the day is to clean out the chicken coop! We lift out the existing bedding and remove the waste before lining the coop with a new layer of bedding. A few of the chickens have been unwell so all the existing material has to go, and the coop has to be cleaned well. These lucky chickens have had a load of seaweed donated and we’re lining the coop with that and new soil.


It’s lunch time and I sit down to eat lunch with my colleagues and a few other volunteers who are here today. We’ve all brought something to share and the garden has provided a winter vegetable soup. It’s delicious, warm, hearty and a great reminder that gardening is all about producing fantastic food.

Early afternoon

Adrian sets us a new task for the afternoon. We help out in the Kelmarna herb garden, picking herbs to be sold at the Kelmarna Gardens shop and weeding and digging.

Late afternoon

When it’s time to say goodbye, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about the garden and its function in the community. Working outside has been a reminder of how important the environment is and how I can make changes to the way I buy produce to behave more sustainably.

Early evening

I’m reflecting on a really interesting day - volunteering is a great way to give something back to the community. Kelmarna Gardens is doing great work to help people learn to garden and be more sustainable, and I’ve already recommended the garden to my flatmate, who works in mental health.

About volunteer leave at Asteron Life

At Asteron Life we’re dedicated to getting out into the community. One of the ways we do that is by offering our people an annual day of paid volunteer leave so that they can give something back to the communities we live and work in.

The information in this article has been compiled from various sources and is intended to be factual information only. Full details of policy terms and conditions are available from Asteron Life Limited or your financial adviser. For advice on product suitability, please contact your financial adviser. While we take reasonable steps to ensure that the information contained in this article is accurate and up-to-date, it is subject to change without notice. Asteron Life Limited and its related companies does/do not accept any responsibility or liability in connection with your use of or reliance on this article.

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