Places and spa­ces cru­cial for Gil­lon


Mau­reen Gil­lon be­lieves vil­lages need their own spa­ces.

Gil­lon re­ceived a medal from Porirua City Coun­cil last year as part of the city’s 50th birth­day cel­e­bra­tions.

She’s most proud of the City Vil­lage Plan­ning con­cept, which she was in­volved in when she was a Porirua City coun­cil­lor.

‘‘I’m fas­ci­nated by the abil­ity of pub­lic spa­ces to con­nect peo­ple,’’ she said.

The idea be­hind the project was to en­cour­age com­mu­ni­ties within Porirua to cre­ate their own unique identities and work with the coun­cil to em­bed their ideas.

‘‘Porirua has 11 vil­lages, each with their own iden­tity, and the city is their core,’’ she said.

‘‘Vil­lages need spa­ces of their own for peo­ple to come to­gether in.’’

Wai­tan­girua and Plim­mer­ton were early adopters of the scheme, she said, and the work by coun­cil staff within com­mu­ni­ties won Porirua an in­ter­na­tional award.

Gil­lon said the char­ac­ter of a com­mu­nity is de­fined by the qual­ity of its pub­lic spa­ces.

She said as spa­ces have be­come more friendly in Porirua, peo­ple are meet­ing more in them. that

‘‘It cre­ates life, en­ergy and heart. Our lo­cal cafes and parks are im­por­tant meet­ing places. I’m fas­ci­nated by the abil­ity of pub­lic spa­ces to con­nect peo­ple,’’ she said.

Gil­lon said her own favourite place is the Pau­ata­hanui In­let.

‘‘I walk around it and go out in the ca­noe. My favourite time of the year is now, when the water is like glass and not too cold.’’ Gil­lon has long cham­pi­oned for bet­ter health and ed­u­ca­tion out­comes for Porirua’s young peo­ple.

She was in­volved with Health­links, a group that helped peo­ple ac­cess ser­vices they needed and helped to de­velop lo­cal solutions to lo­cal prob­lems.

The project was an early fore­run­ner for Pri­mary Health Or­gan­i­sa­tions in Porirua.

Gil­lon also chaired the Lit­er­acy Project, which sought bet­ter learn­ing out­comes for Porirua chil­dren.

In 2013 she or­gan­ised a land­mark Porirua ed­u­ca­tion sum­mit to for­mu­late an ac­tion plan for schools.

She said car­ing about peo­ple is in her genes.

She said the peo­ple of Porirua are pas­sion­ate about lo­cal is­sues and get­ting in­volved. ‘‘Porirua has a vi­brancy that is not ev­i­dent in some places. It’s dif­fi­cult to de­scribe, more like a feel­ing.’’

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