The delivery of more than 5,000 free tomato plants to social-housing tenants in Christchurch is underway, thanks to the partnership between the Department of Corrections and the Christchurch City Council.

The tomato plants were grown by prisoners at Rolleston Prison as part of the Tomatoes for Tenants Project, which began in 2008. Since the partnership began, between 4,000 – 5,000 tomato plants grown in the garden have been donated to the council for their social-housing tenants each year.

Councillor Glenn Livingstone says that while each donation is a relatively small gesture, the wider social outcomes are significant. “We have seen tenants working together, pooling their plants and sharing out the tomatoes between them when they’re ripe. Some tenants have even been inspired to start growing vegetables in their own gardens.

“We very much value this enduring partnership with Corrections and the social benefits that continue to grow out of it.”

The delivery of more than 5,000 free tomato plants to social-housing tenants in Christchurch is underway

The garden at Rolleston Prison is the oldest charity prison garden in New Zealand. Established in 1995, the garden has been providing an average of 18 bins of produce to the Christchurch City Mission a week. The Mission also receives fruit from the large orchard which is part of the garden.

The prisoners work together to tend the gardens, gaining not only qualifications, but also team skills and work ethics which will help them to find employment on release. The practical learning model used in the gardens also has the added benefit of enabling prisoners to give back to the community, and making life a little bit easier for families in need.

“All prisoners at Rolleston are engaged in wide ranging rehabilitative and education programmes. It’s an important part of prisoner’s rehabilitation, as well as their physical and mental wellbeing, to be active and to give back to the community” says Rolleston Prison Manager, Mike Howson.

“A number of prisoners at Rolleston do this by working in the community garden and by being part of the tomatoes project every year. Prisoners feel they are making a contribution and learning skills as well.”

Rolleston Prison garden:

  • 7000 tomato plants were grown this year.
  • 4,400 tomato plants were collected by Christchurch City Council staff for their social housing tenants (two plants for each of their 2,200 tenants).
  • 150 types of plants are grown in the community gardens and then donated to the Christchurch City Mission’s food bank.
  • Other plants are given to non-profit groups and community gardens in Canterbury.