Full hall for first meet­ing of new Kerik­eri group

The Northland Age - - Local News - By Peter de Graaf

The for­est act as car­bon sinks and are

re­planted af­ter har­vest­ing. Or­gan­is­ers of a pub­lic meet­ing aim­ing to get Kerik­eri res­i­dents more in­volved in shap­ing their town’s fu­ture were afraid no one would show up.

In­stead, they ended up with the op­po­site prob­lem — so many peo­ple they barely fit­ted in the venue.

More than 320 peo­ple turned out for Wed­nes­day even­ing’s meet­ing at the Turner Cen­tre, called by Kerik­eri ac­coun­tant An­nika Dickey as a first step to­wards set­ting up a new com­mu­nity group.

The group, with the work­ing ti­tle Our Kerik­eri, is closely mod­elled on Fo­cus Pai­hia, a char­i­ta­ble trust which has trans­formed a frac­tious and slightly shabby Pai­hia into a more uni­fied town with a raft of com­mu­nity-led beau­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­jects.

The meet­ing was run by Fo­cus Pai­hia founders Grant Har­nish and Ta­nia McInnes, who will guide the Kerik­eri group through its ini­tial stages.

Af­ter a num­ber of warm-up ex­er­cises the crowd was split into about 30 groups, each of which had to com­pile a vi­sion of how they wanted Kerik­eri to be by 2029.

The re­sults were re­mark­ably sim­i­lar. Com­mon themes in­cluded a pedes­tri­anand bike-friendly town cen­tre, bet­ter town plan­ning, af­ter-hours med­i­cal care, pub­lic ac­cess to lo­cal beaches, an up­grade of Kerik­eri Do­main, more light­ing and foot­paths, and more even­ing and week­end events.

Kirsty Grant, one of the meet­ing or­gan­is­ers, said she was de­lighted so many peo­ple were pas­sion­ate about the town and will­ing to give up an even­ing.

“It feels like the right time to bring the com­mu­nity to­gether. We’ve seen what Pai­hia has achieved, lo­cal gov­ern­ment is sup­port­ive, and there’s a sense in the com­mu­nity that they want some­thing more for their town.”

The new group was com­mu­nity-led and in­de­pen­dent of any busi­ness or po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests, Grant said.

Nom­i­na­tions were taken for a lead­er­ship group which would com­prise 12-15 peo­ple.

The next step would be to set up eco­nomic, en­vi­ron­men­tal, so­cial and cul­tural fo­cus groups to work on a vi­sion state­ment of what peo­ple wanted for Kerik­eri by 2029. That state­ment would then go back to the com­mu­nity to make sure it had broad sup­port.

The next pub­lic meet­ing was due to take place on April 10.

For peo­ple who pre­ferred do­ing to talk­ing, a “place­mak­ing” group would start straight away on town im­prove­ment pro­jects.

McInnes told the meet­ing that Fo­cus Pai­hia’s first project in 2009 was an up­grade of the area in front of the wharf. More than 200 peo­ple took part over the course of a week­end.

The group worked up to more am­bi­tious pro­jects such as the re­con­struc­tion of a Mars­den Rd toi­let block once re­puted to be the worst in New Zea­land and the trans­for­ma­tion of a wa­ter­front park­ing area into a pop­u­lar pub­lic park.

Har­nish said the best thing about Fo­cus Pai­hia was that peo­ple who had only ever seen each other on the street had be­come closely con­nected.

■ Go to www.kerik­e­riour­town.co.nz for more in­for­ma­tion.

PIC­TURE / PETER DE GRAAF

Fo­cus Pai­hia co-founder and now deputy mayor Ta­nia McInnes ad­dresses the Our Kerik­eri com­mu­nity meet­ing.

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