The Northland Age
‘Power of community’ puts Project on the world map
AFar North “experiment” in which the local community was able to “revitalise” its own backyard has led to recognition on the world stage. Last Thursday the Te Hiku o Te Ika Open Spaces Revitalisation Project took out a string of major awards at the 2022 International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) Australasia Conference Gala Dinner.
The community-led project, funded by Kā noa — the government’s Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit — was supported by Far North District Council and the Te Hiku Community Board.
The project working group has been responsible for the installation of major public and cultural artworks, playground equipment, cycle tracks, public seating, water fountains, barbecues and more across Kaitāia, Awanui and Ahipara.
As a result of their commitment and hard work, the project was awarded the top prize for the Community Development Award and the Australasia Core Values AwardS, plus the Australasia Project of the Year and International Project of the Year.
Project lead Andrea Panther said the win was incredible and highlighted the power of the community working together.
“These awards really show what can be done when we all work together for the good of the community.
“Because everyone here knows everyone, we were able to get things done quickly and couldn’t have achieved everything we have without our local contractors.
“Kudos to former Mayor John
Carter for giving this a go and for trusting our local community to make this happen rather than contracting the project out to an Auckland agency.”
Panther said the recognition was also a welcome pat on the back given the blood, sweat and tears that had gone into the past two years.
“This process at times has been hugely traumatic and a lot of us have been in tears.
“For all the good, we’ve also received a lot of negative feedback, so it’s nice that people are starting to finally let us know we’re doing a good job.
“This project has put the Far North on the map and means the model we’ve used can be applied to other councils or projects around the world. That’s pretty awesome.”
Awanui project manager Suzie Clark agreed the awards were a glowing acknowledgement of the huge transformation for the communities of Awanui, Ahipara and Kaitaia.
“Being a community-driven project from day one has been the secret sauce.
“This has been an amazing project to be part of and has been hugely successful because of how we have pulled together as communities, as groups, as whānau, as businesses in Te Hiku, that’s what’s so great about who we are.
“As one of the project managers, I’ve had the privilege to be part of an amazing team.
“Seeing people’s faces light up, listening to the community pride, watching children and their parents
have fun in the Awanui playground, working with local tradies has been an amazing journey — I’ve truly had the dream job.”
IAP2 is a not-for-profit organisation championing community engagement that ‘improves environmental, social and governance outcomes’.
The awards raise awareness about what best practice public participation looks like.
The Te Hiku o te Ika Open Spaces Revitalisation Project was the only New Zealand finalist nominated for the Community Development prize at the international awards for 2022.
Chris Mene of Mene Solutions is a licensed trainer with IAP2 Australasia and accepted the award on behalf of FNDC.
IAP2 Australasia CEO Marion Short said the organisation was impressed with FNDC’s engagement and outcomes within its communities.
“IAP2 Australasia is absolutely delighted a small council with limited resources working with a widespread community won not only the Australasian Project of the Year Award, but also the International Project of the Year Award,” Short said.
The awards’ judges remarked the project’s outcomes were not only inspiring but the broader, positive impact on the community had also impressed them.
“This team’s genuine interest in driving not only great project outcomes, but broader positive outcomes for the whole community is inspiring,” they said.
“The results they’ve achieved are strongly demonstrated and it’s a framework that could be easily replicated — and shared widely to pave the way for other organisations and councils.
“The approach was excellent and demonstrated the organisation’s commitment to co-designing the outcome with the community rather than imposing it on them.
“An excellent entry and a truly community-focused and driven outcome. Amazing work.”
FNDC Te Hiku ward councillor Felicity Foy is part of the project working group and put together the funding application for the shovelready Covid-19 fund in April 2020.
Foy said it was the only project not scoped or applied for by an Auckland consultant firm and was grateful to former Mayor John Carter, former Deputy Mayor Ann Court and FNDC manager David Clamp for their support of the working group model.
“We deliberately chose local engineer Kevin Hoskin to be our civil engineer, as well as Andrea Panther, Suzie Clark, and John Paitai as our project managers, as they all had local community connections for the part of the project that they were managing, and are also great communicators,” Foy said.
“We really wanted local community and local iwi involvement in the project, not just in scoping and planning, but in the delivery of the physical projects.
“We also wanted specialist professionals from the Kaitaia area to deliver our project and be on our working group, to ensure that those delivering the project held the local community front and centre.”
The project is still underway, with more parks, pou and artwork to come.
In the near future, families and tamariki can look forward to a new pump track in Awanui with consent issued, plans completed and construction expected to be ready in four weeks.
Te Rarawa kaumātua and cultural lead, Hone (John) Paitai, was contacted for comment but was unable to comment in time for the edition.
To read more about the different projects happening around Te Hiku, visit the Te Hiku Open Spaces Revitalisation Project Facebook page.