Big bud­get to lift up com­mu­nity


Re­nee Kennedy knows about poverty – the 33-year-old solo mum has five chil­dren and some­times strug­gles to put food on the ta­ble.

But with the help of a pi­o­neer­ing Hutt City Coun­cil project, Em­pow­er­ing Ta­mariki, she is turn­ing her life around.

The coun­cil has spent tens of mil­lions of dol­lars on a range of projects to lift its poor­est cit­i­zens out of poverty.

Kennedy said liv­ing on a ben­e­fit was not easy, ‘‘es­pe­cially when kids need money for school trips or camps’’. That is where coun­cil ini­tia­tives have helped.

Kennedy lives near the ren­o­vated Wal­ter Nash Cen­tre which has be­come the hub of the Taita/Po­mare com­mu­nity.

The coun­cil has funded the Vi­sion Ac­tive pro­gramme at the cen­tre which pro­vides sport for young­sters and gives them some­thing to eat af­ter­wards.

Kennedy be­gan vol­un­teer­ing with Vi­sion Ac­tive and is now em­ployed as the team leader. Her el­dest daugh­ter, 16-year-old Haylee, works as a youth leader and son Mar­shall, 15, vol­un­teers.

The whole fam­ily is in­volved in Twi­light Bas­ket­ball at the Wal­ter Nash Cen­tre on Fri­day nights.

Mar­shall, who is into science and tech­nol­ogy, is a reg­u­lar at the Taita Com­puter Club­house, es­tab­lished by the coun­cil.

Thir­teen mem­bers of Kennedy’s ex­tended whanau en­joy free gui­tar lessons at the new $5 mil­lion Ko­raunui Stokes Val­ley Hub.

Em­pow­er­ing Ta­mariki was launched in 2013 and aims to im­prove the lives of young people in Nae­nae, Taita, Stokes Val­ley and Po­mare.

Since 2013, $53m has been in­vested in re­ju­ve­nat­ing the city’s most de­prived com­mu­ni­ties in­clud­ing $39m be­ing spent on new com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties and $10m for coun­cil ser­vices such as li­braries, recre­ation and ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes. It is also spend­ing $5m on projects tar­get­ing ev­ery­thing from help­ing school leavers find work to mak­ing sure chil­dren do not go to school hun­gry.

Em­pow­er­ing Ta­mariki’s driv­ing force is gen­eral man­ager Matt Reid.

A ques­tion he reg­u­larly faces is ‘‘what the heck has all this got to do with the city coun­cil?’’

‘‘I do not mind say­ing I live in par­adise but I am sad to say, as a New Zealan­der, it’s not a par­adise for ev­ery­one and the coun­cil is do­ing some­thing about it.’’

If we all wanted to live in a safe com­mu­nity where ev­ery­one could par­tic­i­pate, the coun­cil had no choice but to give those at the bot­tom a hand up, he said.

As to that tricky is­sue ‘‘what does all this have to with coun­cil?’’ Reid pointed out the new Gov­ern­ment was look­ing at chang­ing the Local Gov­ern­ment Act to in­clude a ‘‘well­be­ing’’ clause.

He be­lieved Hutt City would be seen as a pi­o­neer.

Depri­va­tion stud­ies mea­sur­ing un­em­ploy­ment, house and car own­er­ship, and ed­u­ca­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tions showed Po­mare and Taita had some of New Zealand’s poor­est cit­i­zens.

What the coun­cil had done, he said, was take a co-or­di­nated ap­proach to re­duc­ing poverty and ac­tively look for ways to build a stronger com­mu­nity.

‘‘What re­ally moves me is that we can see chil­dren’s en­gage­ment and am­bi­tions on the rise.

‘‘When these kids go on to fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion, or train­ing or em­ploy­ment, fam­i­lies ben­e­fit, their com­mu­ni­ties ben­e­fit and the city ben­e­fits. This is why coun­cil is in­volved in these projects.’’


Re­nee Kennedy and her chil­dren, from left, Brax­ton, 4, Matese, 9, Al­ize-Skye, 9, Mar­shall,15 and, Haylee,16.

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