Down to earth

06 July 2010

Stanley Jones (right) with Tom Tauili, one of the staff in the University gardens, who mainly looks after the grounds around Old Government House and some of the buildings nearby.

Nothing goes out of the University’s gardens. That is one of the central principles of Grounds and Precincts Manager Stanley Jones’s approach to his task.

Twigs, branches, uprooted plants and dead flowers, the leaves that fall and lie in all their organic abundance in autumn; the aim is to use all those to feed back into the cycle of growth in all of the University’s grounds across its five campuses.

Stanley points out the space left by an Erythrina x sykesii (Australian Coral) tree in the gardens of Old Government House. “The tree split and had to be cut down,” he says. “Now it is feeding the other trees and plants. It has been completely recycled.”

The circles of mulch around the trees that you see as you stroll through these heritage gardens are not only feeding the soil and enriching the growth of trees but also locking the moisture in, so that less of the precious (and costly) water resources are needed.

“Mulching also means you don’t have to spray for weeds,” says Stanley. “And you have much less need for artificial fertilisers.”

“We try not to use pesticides except where totally necessary. We keep our whole approach environmentally friendly, which is a help to some of the University’s activities. For example, researchers from the School of Biological Sciences are conducting research on bees. Bees are very vulnerable to insecticides, which is a problem world-wide. We try to make a safe haven in the city centre for birds and insects.”

Even the University’s smoke-free policy is working in support of this earth-friendly approach. Now that smokers are no longer scattering cigarette butts within the grounds, this means that the fallen leaves, now uncontaminated, can be safely mulched and recycled.

Stanley, who studied for his horticultural qualifications at three different institutions in South Africa and managed the parks and gardens at several councils before moving to Auckland five years ago, has always been environmentally conscious.

“Especially in the first world, we produce enormous amounts of waste,” he says. “We inherit a beautiful place and we need to leave it just as beautiful for future generations.”

When asked about his plans for the future of the gardens Stanley says he is not planning major changes yet.

“At the moment I’m just wanting to get to know the gardens and get the sustainability cycle established throughout the University. “

But later? “I would like this to be a wonderfully rich and sustainable botanical garden.”

Not only Stanley but also his family have established strong links with The University of Auckland. His wife is now teaching in a secondary school in Auckland while studying for her Master of Teaching degree at Epsom. Their son is studying archaeology and their daughter is doing a BA(Hons) in Art History. Stanley has also commenced further study – for a Graduate Diploma in Theology, which he is greatly enjoying.

“Since I began as Grounds Manager last October, I’ve been seeing the University from the outside,” he says. “Now I’m getting to know it from the inside as well.”