Community rooftop gardens concept wins Wellington Climathon

Published Nov 2, 2017

The idea to create community gardens on rooftops in Wellington’s central city has taken out the top prize at the Wellington Climathon, and will now be the subject of further research at Victoria University of Wellington by the team behind the idea. 

Victoria students Chris Fink and Tadhg Connolly, and electrical engineer Naomi Gillgren—who had not met each other prior to the annual Victoria and Wellington City Council event—developed the idea and presented their business case to the judging panel after a 24-hour marathon of concept analysis, research and idea development. 

The team beat 14 other teams in the Wellington competition, taking home the $1,000 cash prize as overall winners. They also won the Sustainability Research Award, which includes $5,000 to fund further research of their idea. 

Chris says their idea aimed to provide a way to better engage Wellingtonians with the environment and each other. 

“Community gardens give people a place to care about and also encourage them to interact with nature, which can be pretty hard to do in cities.” 

Tadhg added that the gardens could help cause a shift in people’s behaviours and have flow-on environmental benefits. “People who are engaged with their environments are more likely to make environmentally friendly decisions, like buying local food and using alternative forms of transport.” 

In a public poll, the team found nearly 90 per cent of respondents would use a rooftop garden, and over 80 percent would be willing to pay more rent to live in a building with one. 

One of the judges, Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Sustainability) Associate Professor Marjan van den Belt, was impressed with the team’s innovative idea. 

“It could be a game-changer in terms of insulation, growing food and providing public green spaces—it’s a great vision for the city.” 

The team is planning to spend their prize money to research potential issues and solutions around creating rooftop gardens in a windy, earthquake-prone city and trial a community garden on a Wellington rooftop. 

Other award-winning innovations include:

  • Children’s education game for waste
  • Disposable compost bin
  • Multi-business shopping portal for zero-waste products
  • Electric scooters with battery exchange and charging stations
  • Compost toilet resource action plan
  • Digital communication tool to redistribute construction waste to schools
  • Local council engagement digital tool to engage youth


Prizes were donated by Victoria University’s Enhancing Resilience and Sustainability theme, Viclink’s Victoria Entrepreneur Bootcamp, Greater Wellington Regional Council, the Low Carbon Challenge, ethical business advisory and investor MOTIF, and social enterprise development organisation the Ākina Foundation,. 

The Wellington Climathon event was run simultaneously with events in Christchurch, Auckland and 230 other cities around the world. 

It was delivered by MOTIF and Viclink, Victoria’s commercialisation arm, with additional support from Enspiral company EXP, and supported by the Deep South National Science Challenge, Royal Society of New Zealand and Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association. 

For further information, please contact Emily Sullivan