Men’s group inspires ‘peace garden’ upgrade

Giving back . . . University of Otago student John Laurenson, of Fairlie, at a ceremony in the "peace garden" in North Dunedin on Friday. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

A “peace garden” in North Dunedin has had a face-lift.

University of Otago medical student John Laurenson, of Fairlie, said he led a project to renovate the garden in Albany St.

The redevelopment project was born from a mental health group.

As the third year representative on the Medical Students’ Association executive committee he started men’s mental health group Tane Ama.

Speaking to The Star before a ceremony in the garden on Friday, Mr Laurenson (21) said the group was designed to get men “talking about what’s going on in their heads and not hiding behind the bottle”.

“Which we tend to do here in Dunedin – the drinking culture plays a huge part [in mental health].”

The group allowed “guys to get together and be real”.

“We noted there was a lack of space at the uni where guys could be constructive and build something with your hands.”

The group’s mantra was “if you want to lift yourself up, lift someone else up”.

It was good to “give back to the community”. The garden gave Dunedin residents a space to sit and reflect.

The location of the garden was ideal for students as it was opposite the university’s central library, which was full of people “stressing about exams”.

“They can see the garden and come and spend a few minutes chilling out and relaxing and that’s what it was all about for us.”

He acknowledged the continued work of community facilitator Paul Gourlie in the garden.

Mitre 10 Mega Dunedin owner Martin Dippie, who was among about 70 people at the ceremony, sponsored the project, giving supplies to the project including paving stones to form a large peace symbol, timber and soil to create several community gardens and bringing in a builder from Auckland for a “mucking-in weekend” last month.

“Martin has been absolutely fantastic.”