A Brisbane woman captured erratically ripping out plants in a ‘guerilla garden’ built without council approval has come under fire after a heated confrontation with onlookers.
Community group Growing Forward built the St Lucia veggie patch on “public land” on Friday in a bid to promote gardening and to encourage more affordable healthy eating.
It was the latest vegetable garden to be created by the community group with several other non-for-profit developments set up across the state.
The garden, which was located on the corner of Carmody road and Townley street, had no single owner, with it being the community’s responsibility to keep it maintained.
The St Lucia community garden was built on Friday. Picture: Facebook / @GrowingForward
The fresh produce that was harvested from the site was supposed to be free “for people who needed it”, with regular working bees scheduled to help the garden prosper.
But despite it coming with good intentions, the development wasn’t welcomed by all, with the council quickly shutting it down.
“Here’s an interesting one: (on Friday) nine people turned up at St Lucia Playground Park and dug a garden in the middle of the park,” Councillor James Mackay posted to Facebook.
“This was not Council endorsed. In fact, this group went ahead and dug the garden without even alerting Council, let alone getting it approved.
“It took a bit to get this group to chat to me, but I finally had a good chat to understand what was going on. These people wanted to make a garden.
“While I applaud their energy, I really wish they had called me first. We could’ve used their energy to re-establish the garden beside meals on wheels, just 500m away.”
The councillor offered to help the group install nother garden elsewhere but there’s been no word in regards to whether they took up the offer.
Instead, a council compliance officer issued the organisation a notice to cease, with the area since being cleared.
To expedite the process, a self-proclaimed “neighbourhood watch leader” beat the council to bulldozing it on Monday – with concerned locals filming her ripping up the site.
Her 13-minute spat, which was posted to Growing Forward’s Facebook page, captured the woman arguing with several community members as she deconstructed the four-day-old site.
The video commenced with a concerned onlooker confronting the woman, who asked “are you wrecking a community garden?”.
In response she said she was conducting an investigation after “invaders” ruined a cricket pitch that was used by the local Sri Lanken community, before asking the man if he would help her.
As he was against the woman’s actions, the man declined to offer his assistance with the pair breaking out into a bitter debate that started with the woman establishing herself as the “person who runs the neighbourhood watch”.
“Does this look like a garden to you?”, the woman questioned before another woman chimed in saying the area was no place for the veggie patch.
The woman was supported by another bystander. Picture: Facebook / @GrowingForwardThe woman’s behaviour grew more aggressive as more onlookers approached her. Picture: Facebook / @GrowingForward
The trio were heard shouting over each other for several minutes as the number of bystanders grew.
“I’m checking to see what damage has been done to the land,” the community watch leader argued.
“I understand that, but you’re ruining the garden and you shouldn’t do that,” the man replied.
Growing agitated, the woman shouted: “you’re ruining the cricket pitch”.
“Why are you wrecking something like this, why would you do this?,” the man asked while walking away.
The footage then captured a third woman confronting the community watch leader with the situation becoming increasingly hostile and slightly physical.
The community watch leader, who claimed she had a spinal injury, then started tossing cardboard used to create a footpath between the garden beds as a younger woman tried to block her.
“This is a public space, this is where the children come … stop wrecking our cricket pitch,” the woman screamed as her supporter, who was holding a toddler, allegedly called the police.
Meanwhile, those who were in favour of the garden were captured desperately trying to reconfigure its cardboard footpath to no avail as the woman ripped it up again.
“I run the neighbourhood watch here and I have received a number of complaints about this,” the woman said, trying to justify her actions.
A neighbourhood watch leader went rogue on a community garden, claiming it had ruined a cricket pitch. Picture: Facebook / @GrowingForwardShe started throwing soil from inside the garden over its fence. Picture: Facebook / @GrowingForward
As the argument continued between the two opposing groups, the woman was observed throwing piles of soil over the garden’s fence before ruining the cardboard path a third time.
While it’s not clear how the confrontation ended, Growing Forward labelled the woman’s actions an “embarrassment” and condemned the behaviour.
“Get this — this woman … just rocked up at the garden and started tearing it up, while another woman arrived and egged her on, then called the cops on bystanders,” the organisation said.
“While people from the neighbourhood and members of our collective watched on, she kicked seedlings, stomped plants, threw handfuls of dirt in the air, and pulled down trellises, all while calling the gardeners ‘invaders’ (and) asking people ‘where are you actually from?’.”
The organisation said they understood not everyone agreed with the garden, but argued the woman’s approach was not the right way to address the situation.
“It’s just a garden. We assert the right of people struggling to afford food, pay rent, or find a home at all to self-organise and grow their own food,” it said.
Growing Forward also claims the area was doorknocked and leafleted prior to the garden being built to gauge the community’s thoughts on the idea, stating the majority of locals supported the idea.
“Right now, some local school kids are getting a tour of the garden, learning about how to grow their own food, and tired gardeners are taking a rest in the shade of some trees after fixing it up,” it said.
“We will do our best to support locals gardening in this spot for as long as it’s possible, and we will build more gardens elsewhere too.”
St Lucia community remains divided
The installation of the community garden divided locals, with some choosing to side with the council and the woman who “destroyed” the site.
One resident said while she saw the “good intentions” behind the garden, she argued the organisation should have done a better job with consulting the community.
“This lady seems to me to be sticking up for the kids whose voice you’re silencing. Good on her for standing up,” the woman commented on the video.
“Seriously a lot of people including myself would support community gardens but this is hair brained – actually work with (the) community if you want to do something like this – not against it.”
Another resident slammed the garden, saying there was nothing communal about it.
“The local community has not been consulted and does not want it,” she said.
“It is making a children’s playground an unpleasant place and is setting out to destroy our beautiful local community.”
Cardboard and seedlings were also seen on the floor: Facebook / @GrowingForward
Meanwhile, the woman who claimed to be the neighbourhood watch leader, posted a comment standing by her decision to “check” the grass.
“I told you, I was checking the state of the grass, and that’s what I was there to do. Would have been happy just to talk with you. But you obviously fancied the ratio of ten-to-one,” she said.
“Stop invading our public park, creating divisions, fencing off your patch, putting up net fencing that’s unlikely to be bird safe, dumping soil and inventing things faster than Donald Trump.
“I didn’t kick any plants, unless it was while trying to move away from your goons.”
Growing Forward has established a fundraiser online so it can continue building community gardens like the one that was in St Lucia, in other parts of the state.
“All fundraised money will go directly towards buying the materials to set up the new garden which costs about $2000, anything over this will go towards longer term maintenance and future gardens,” the organisation said.
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So far $4150 of its $8000 goal has been raised.
News.com.au has contacted Queensland Police for comment.
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