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    Posted on 21 Jun 2016

    A Bunch Of People Have Been Tricked Into Thinking Gardening Is Illegal In New Zealand

    "My brother got six years after the police raided and found his strawberry patch."

    So there's this rumour going around that it's illegal to grow a garden in New Zealand.

    Did you know that it's illegal to have a garden in New Zealand? So like, apples, roses...cant grow them.

    A lot of people seem to think that gardening, growing fruit and vegetables, and basically owning anything to do with horticulture is illegal.

    Apparently in New Zealand it's illegal to have a home garden w/o government permission & gardening tools are strictly regulated. W.T.F.

    Wait - It's actually illegal to have a personal home garden in New Zealand? The hell? I pity the fool who's never tasted home-grown veggies

    Did you know: Growing a personal home garden in New Zealand is ILLEGAL? The liberal govt rips out plants and charges huge fines #YayLiberals

    Well, you'll be happy to know that it's absolutely, 100% NOT illegal to grow a garden in New Zealand. That's just silly. It's actually just a very elaborate prank that's been years in the making.

    It all started in 2014. Reddit user WhyNotSmeagol asked the New Zealand subreddit if gardening in New Zealand was illegal. Apparently, his friend told him you "can't have a garden in New Zealand".

    In a miraculous and impressive feat of cooperation, the entire subreddit then continued to play upon this guy's belief that gardening in New Zealand was illegal. They created stories, wars, laws, and anecdotes, all about how the supposed ban on gardening had affected them.

    "My brother was killed in the Moutua Gardens protest," wrote one user. "My uncle lost an arm in the 1981 Spring Bok-choi Riots. My sisters were arrested and thrown into prison, without trial, by a police-led mob after they were discovered re-potting gardenias. Every day I live in fear, alienated by my community for having relatives marked by the Green Thumb. I envy the dead."

    "What is garden?" wrote another. "Sorry I'm a younger Kiwi and haven't heard of this before. Holy shit I just googled it. So pretty. Why aren't we taught this stuff in school?"

    The trolling was so successful because a lot of the things mentioned are references to real events. The Moutua Gardens protest is a real thing – the park was occupied for 79 days in 1995 over a claim by New Zealand's Indigenous people that the site was the location of a Maori village and they therefore had claims of sovereignty over the land, given to them in the historic Treaty of Waitangi. The Treaty of Waitangi was a document drawn up between the British and multiple Maori chiefs in 1840, confirming the British would be able to rule over New Zealand, but that the Maori could still occupy their lands without interference.

    However, it's worth noting all of that had absolutely nothing to do with any sort of gardening ban on growing sweet potatoes.

    Following the Reddit thread, local New Zealand media even reported on the "gardening ban" and the conversations that followed. It was funny, and was top of the news for a few days. That was in November 2014.

    Now it's 2016, and New Zealand is facing a different gardening crisis: running out of avocados.

    Could this be New Zealand's most expensive avocado!?

    Not only is there a severe shortage of avocados in New Zealand because of a less-than-impressive annual yield, they're also being stolen and sold on the road or at market stalls for incredibly jacked-up prices. This is actually happening, and Reddit users used the crisis as a basis for a new surge in "illegal gardening" stories.

    Four days ago, Reddit user DinaDinaDinaBatman uploaded a photo of his mother "flouting the law, growing her own avocado in her illegal garden".

    This time, the post didn't just work on the New Zealand communities of Reddit – instead it found its way to the top of Reddit and on to the site's front page.

    With almost 5,000 upvotes and hundreds of comments, it's likely that hundreds of thousands of people were exposed to New Zealand's "illegal gardening" laws, with no idea if what they were reading was true or false.

    New Zealand Reddit users were quick to pile on, and were sure to make it seem as real as possible.

    "People like you should be banned from this goddamn country," said one user.

    "My brother got six years after the police raided and found his strawberry patch," said another.

    It also didn't help that a New Zealand publication, The Spinoff, published another write-up of the gardening ban – giving no indication that the whole thing was a very impressive ruse – and that New Zealander Reddit users were directing everyone questioning the legitimacy of the ban to the site.

    "Maybe we’re just used to it after a long history of risking jail for the simple act of planting a few plants," wrote the article's author, Josh Drummond.

    Then, another Reddit user posted about their garden getting seized by police. The post also rocketed to the front page of Reddit, and had thousands of people once more wondering what the HELL is the deal with New Zealand's gardening ban.

    "You guys talking to much [sic] have brought attention to my little grow," wrote user Heavy_Metal_viking.

    "I ... had a late season crop of cabbages, a few broccoli, a few cauliflower all hidden away by fences in my backyard. Admittedly it would have been measured in pounds rather than ounces, I got greedy.

    "Well well, loose lips sink ships. A few members of the Dept. of Agriculture showed up and ripped it all out. They practically goose stepped in with jack boots. This is what I was left with. I was barred from my own property while they did their work, and now I have a cease and desist letter and a hefty fine.

    "The letter states if I concrete this area to prevent further illegal activity, the fine will be halved to a more reasonable $700. Silver lining is I will have a nice BBQ area.

    "Black market gardening just isn't worth the risk with this being at the forefront of everyones minds!"

    Reddit users lost their fuckin' minds.

    "Seriously. I'm Finnish, and this is blowing my fucking mind. My parents grow tomatoes on the balcony, on the sixth floor of an apartment building. Before that when they lived somewhere that had a bit of land, my mother had a small patch of strawberries growing. Hell, she has strawberries on the balcony right now.

    Why the hell would you even attempt to ban that?"

    And then, as is common on Reddit, the photo of DinaDinaBatman's mother was uploaded to Reddit again. And it made it to the front page. Again.

    The post even had a title that seemed to imply everyone was just going along with this whole thing, believing it to be true. "New Zealand Woman Poses with Illegally Planted Avocado Tree" also received hundreds of comments and upvotes.

    And just yesterday, someone posted a photo from protests in New Zealand saying it was actually about the "absurd gardening ban". New Zealander Reddit users went along with it (again) and people were confused (again).

    Today, the "illegal gardens in New Zealand" discussions are still continuing. People on Twitter are angry. People on Reddit are confused. The world is losing its mind.

    Either the whole of New Zealand are master level trolls, or growing vegetables in your garden is actually illegal there??

    For what it's worth, a spokesperson for New Zealand's Ministry for Primary Industries told BuzzFeed News that there are "no laws against people in New Zealand having gardens".

    "There are no laws against people having gardens, or sharing food that they’ve grown at home. New food safety law (the Food Act 2014) only applies to food for sale, so has no effect on people sharing food," they said.

    "The law also allows people sell the food they grow at home, at their farm gate or on a market stall for example, without the need to register under the Food Act."

    So now you know.

    I'm sorry.

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