Catherine & Lin from New Brighton Community Gardens

Catherine O’Neill and Lin Klenner smiling in their New Brighton Community Gardens.

Meet Catherine O’Neill and Lin Klenner of New Brighton Community Gardens. Catherine has been the trusted Garden Manager since 2010 and Lin looks after everything but gardening. From the ground up is how they roll.

Words by: Johnny Gibson 

Images by: Nancy Zhou & supplied 

The New Brighton Community Gardens have been running since 2005 and are a hub of activity, with volunteers contributing their time in exchange for good fresh organic vegetables. The Gardens also supply food to the local food box and run educational programmes for schools, families and people with disabilities. It’s all about sharing skills and creating an opportunity for social connection. 

With a background in organic gardening and having supplied produce to the likes of Piko Wholefoods through her previous ventures, Catherine’s happy space is in the seed house growing thousands of plants from seeds and sharing her knowledge daily with anyone keen to learn. ‘Catherine has the kindest heart with the patience of a saint and as empathetic as they come. Even the birds in her home are well looked after and fed daily!’ says Lin. 

Lin is originally from Germany but has pretty much been a Kiwi since 1999. Her role at the New Brighton Community Gardens includes writing funding applications, administration, outreach programs, social media and graphic design. Not a total lost cause in the garden department, Lin has managed to grow her first carrots in her garden, thanks to Catherine’s guidance! With her two sons, New Brighton has always been a favourite for weekend family times; the beach, QEII, Hot Pools, playground, ice cream truck and a swing by the gardens have kept the family entertained for years. 

Here are Catherine and Lin's picks on the best places to visit in this Ōtautahi beachside suburb. 

Lin crouching down holding a plant in the New Brighton Community Gardens.

Our little slice of paradise: New Brighton Community Gardens

136 Shaw Avenue, New Brighton

Established in 2005 and still going strong, The New Brighton Community Gardens is our favourite place in New Brighton. We love the variety of people who we get to meet, work and spend time getting to know. We often hear that most of our volunteers would never meet outside the garden gates in daily life. Being a space that provides that sense of community is perhaps our most significant achievement. We have a job and space for everyone, regardless of background, skills or abilities. Head to the New Brighton Community Gardens Facebook page to keep up with what we are up to. It’s our own little paradise.

Plants, ceramics and twinkling lights on display on floating shelves inside the window at The Grotto New Brighton.

Check out a new space for curiosities (and sauerkraut!)

3/140 Brighton Mall

Studio, gallery and curiosities store, The Grotto won’t be a hidden gem in New Brighton for long! Creator Matt Morris is about showcasing local and New Zealand artists’ works that have a connection to the natural environment and sustainability. Did you know he is also the local sauerkraut maker among us? The Urban Monk makes the most amazing sauerkraut and tonics and is worth a try. You can order them from his website and at The Grotto.

Dried flowers and other homewares on display on a wall and table inside 105 Artisan Emporium New Brighton.

Your Sister is a Witch at 105

105 Brighton Mall

Artisan Emporium, 105, is a great place to get a present or treat for yourself. There is always something that will catch your eye. Sustainable handmade options are easy to find, and the biggest issue when you discover a present for someone special is not to buy a second one for yourself. When you go a bit further to the back, you will find “When Your Sister is a Witch” by Sam Brown. There are healthcare and beauty products - the rose and camomile face mist is a must, and the dried flower bouquets are just stunning and will last. If you are ever stuck in your mind, body or soul, a massage from Sam will give you wings. 

The Southshore Spit Reserve in New Brighton on a cloudy day.

See out the natural beauty of New Brighton on foot

Walking and stopping along the way to take in the beauty Mother Nature has to offer, she is the best artist. The morning dew on the plants has such beauty. If you have a magnifying glass, fun for hours. We love the Southshore Spit Reserve, especially the bench seat there. 

The inside of Switch Espresso in New Brighton on a sunny day.

Collaborations and treats at the local cafés

7/78 Brighton Mall

We work with Switch New Brighton by taking their eggshells, which we clean, dry, crush and distribute back into the community garden, like the coffee grounds and green waste. Each week they drop three bins into our gardens, and we return them. It’s this spirit of working together that we love and feel represents New Brighton. They also make great-tasting salads. The Karma Free Cafe’s Tiramisu slice is also addictive!

The view of the New Brighton pier from the dunes on a cloudy day.

Inspiration, arts and wellbeing

We are so lucky in New Brighton to have the ocean and its raw beauty on our front steps. Sitting on top of the dunes and watching the ocean puts your mind at ease. Add a sunrise to this, and boom, your creativity flows. On top of that, we love seeing the Sand Mans designs! How awesome are his works of art?

The mosaic bird bath at New Brighton Community gardens.

Mosaic wonders

The Mosaic Girls are amazing! The beauty they create within New Brighton is just on a different level and gives a nice feeling of the community too. It just pops up wherever you look. There’s a beautiful piece opposite Switch café. We have a mosaic birdbath and are dreaming of a mosaic sofa for Brighton or the gardens!

The view of the New Brighton pier from the library on a cloudy day.

Books, views and garden talks

213 Marine Parade

We don’t get much time to read, but when we do, we love to sit in the New Brighton Library. The view is just excellent, and those big chairs are comfy enough to have a snooze too. We have worked with the library and hosted some garden talks there, also. The great thing about Brighton is that you can start the morning here and keep entertained the entire day or weekend, and you still would not get through it all.

Shoe polishes and shoelaces on display inside Happy Feet New Brighton.

Happy Feet

121 Brighton Mall

We are big believers in reducing our footprint in this world, and fixing rather than throwing things has got to be the way to go. The local shoe monger, Happy Feet, is fantastic. They have been in business for over 35 years. We love the smell and the craftsmanship when you go in there, and they will fix your boots with quality and care. There’s something very genuine about this shop.

Neat Christchurch & Canterbury Places

Dose Diner

Close up of the counter at Dose Diner in Christchurch.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
Cafes key icon.

Adding a much needed touch of ‘cool’ to Blenheim Road, Dose Diner takes a page from the book of the quirky Melbourne café scene.

Stencil

The shop area.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
Fashion key icon.

Variety is the spice of life, and you’ll certainly find something to spice up your wardrobe at Stencil.

Embassy

Skateboards and shoes on display at Embassy in Christchurch.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
Fashion key icon.

Peruse the likes of Adidas, Vans, Element, and Lower’s latest lines all stocked in store, or choose from more than 50 other international and New Zealand brands.

Bohemian Bakery Sumner

Bakery interior with shelves of breads.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
Goods key icon.

Located in sunny Sumner, Bohemian Bakery is an Eastern European-inspired neighbourhood bakery.