Formerly New Zealand's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands and MP for the Northland Electorate of New Zealand.


Moving forward together

Thursday 5 March 2015

Places powered by people

We don't always make national news headlines in the Far North for the right reasons, but we're starting to distinguish ourselves as a district where great places are being created by the power of people working together. Take Kawakawa for example. It would be fair to say this town was in the doldrums 20 years ago. Today, it is a vibrant, buzzing community thanks to the vision, drive and energy of countless locals. Tourists think of the late artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser when they stop to photograph his world-famous toilets. But many hands built these toilets, so they are as much a monument to human cooperation as they are the creation of a lone artist. The spin-off projects that have given Kawakawa's mainstreet its funky, laid-back vibe are also the result of people stepping up and working together. Of course, one can't talk about Kawakawa's renaissance without mentioning the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway Trust. This is a community group that has taken volunteerism to a new level. When the trust won the TrustPower Community Awards 10 years ago, a small army of 400 volunteers had clocked up a staggering 105,000 hours of work. I continue to be impressed by the trust's achievements which are helping to ensure Kawakawa doesn't become a so-called 'zombie town'. The Kawakawa Business Association is also a big part of Kawakawa's success story with plans to turn the local pool into something 'cool and different'.

The DIY, can-do spirit is alive and kicking in most of our communities, but it has arguably achieved its greatest potential in Paihia. I have long been impressed by the cool things this community has done with its public spaces and the way it has grabbed at opportunities. I was therefore delighted to hear that Paihia had been named Mitre 10 Community of the Year at the prestigious Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards last week. Most towns in the Far North have committees and groups that do great things to make their communities better places. But Paihia has managed to develop a shared vision for the town and create a change process that has been driven by the wider community. Another critical success factor has been the leadership of Focus Paihia. I want to acknowledge the talent, vision and determination of its members, as well as the Deputy Mayor Tania McInnes who was a founding member of this amazing group. I am delighted that the group wants to help other communities and I encourage interested people to take advantage of this generous offer. I would also like people to think about what we might achieve as a district if we work together towards a common goal like Paihia has done. The Deputy Mayor is leading a project called 'One Voice - One Vision' which aims to develop a shared vision and action plan for the Far North. As Paihia has shown, we will only succeed in this endeavour if everyone is involved. I urge you to tell us what you would like the district to look like in 2050 when we invite submissions to our Long Term Plan later this month.


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