How To Get A New Playground – The Ōtara Way | 1 NEWS
The poor condition of community facilities in South Auckland – especially compared to more affluent areas – is well known. So how did a group of Åtara residents convince Auckland City Council to build them a whole new playground?
It all started with a monthly sizzling of sausages on Åtara’s Cooper Crescent.
Toetoe-roa / Cooper Park in Åtara, Auckland. Source: Auckland Council
By Justin Latif, Local Democracy Reporter
Fast forward three years and $ 600,000 in upgrades, and Toetoe-roa / Cooper Park now has a shiny yellow and red playground, upgraded basketball and volleyball courts, a mini pumping track and a picnic area.
But such a project is an exception to the norm.
According to a tip report in 2018Despite 25 percent of Auckland’s children living in the southern parts of the city, only 16 percent of the city’s play facilities were located there.
Additionally, the Mount Albert and Mount Eden playgrounds were found to have an average of five pieces of equipment per facility, while the South Auckland playgrounds only had three.
As reported by The spin-off Last month, the reasons for the persisting disparities relate to the decision of Manukau city council, before its merger into the supercity, to build more playgrounds and community facilities in the eastern parts of its region.
As a result, under Auckland Council’s current distribution model, Howick Local Council receives over $ 26 million per year in Asset-Based Services (ABS) funding to manage its community facilities, while the rest of the South Auckland local councils receive $ 10-17 million. .
For Lee Naniseni and his neighbors in Cooper Crescent, reversing these inequalities was not their main priority.
The mother of seven says she and a small group of friends just wanted to connect with their neighbors, so they started hosting a series of monthly community barbecues on her street.
She says that while the kids quickly got together and played, the parents initially held back because they weren’t used to interacting with their neighborhood.
âIt was about building a new culture and breaking down barriers, so using food is always a good start,â says Naniseni.
They received help from the My Street Project, run by the Community Builders NZ Trust, a local program aimed at improving health and well-being in Åtara.
âBasically they helped us train local leaders and taught us how to connect neighbors and it all built from there. “
Åtara residents Mitchell Tomai and his son Madden. Source: Report on local democracy
It soon became apparent that an improved park and playground was something most local families wanted.
âNothing had happened to her park for 40 years,â she says.
âThere was drug trafficking, the slide had been burnt down and the swings were going to disappear. It was really run down and if it was school holidays the kids wouldn’t go there. It was a truly desolate space.
Naniseni, who has lived on the streets since childhood, says the community-building effort has gone from occasional barbecues, to hosting a Christmas lights event, to setting up a community Facebook page and finally sending out a petition for the local park to get a playground upgrade.
âWe started to hold regular meetings. People started to become much more aware of children. And with the Facebook page, parents were able to negotiate for people to keep their dogs indoors when the kids walk to school.
She says that when they presented the petition and its more than 200 signatures to the local Åtara-Papatoetoe council, they were surprised to find the council so open to their idea.
âIt just shows the power of the voice of the community when people come together. And that’s how we’ve been able to get that across, because the board has heard the voices of our community as well.
The community was able to co-design the park, even in the colors of the slides.
âThe advice was amazing,â says Naniseni. âThe team worked very closely with our residents and whenever we came up with ideas they were just very receptive. “
Something for the next generation
Another local, Yvonne Matson, was part of the planning for the original playground about 40 years ago. She says it was a special time to see a new generation take on the role of community leadership.
âAll I wanted back then was to give our kids a decent place to play. A lot of these kids like Lee [Naniseni] still live in this community and it is heartwarming to see them now doing the same for their children and the next generation.
Mitchell Tomai and his family moved to Whitley Crescent at the north end of Toetoe-roa / Cooper Park three years ago.
He says this particular corner of the suburb has “changed massively” as a result of the work of Naniseni and her team.
âThey really brought the community together,â he says.
âTheir Christmas lights event gets bigger and bigger every year. The street is closed, they have food stalls and shows and it’s already better than the Franklin Road Christmas lights.
But given the lack of funding for South Auckland City Council facilities, granting a new playground was not an easy decision, said Åtara-Papatoetoe local council chairman. , Apulu Reece Autagavaia.
âWe had to put in LDI [locally driven initiatives] funding which is our discretionary funding, which meant we had to pull it out from elsewhere, âhe said.
âIf we were better funded by the distribution of ABS funds, we would not have to use our LDI funds. But then we can justify investing money in it, because we know it will have good results. “
He says that in addition to finding the money for this project, the board also had to convince board staff that they needed to step away from their predetermined renewal schedule.
âParks staff have their maintenance and renewal schedules, so we have to show a good reason why we should be proposing one park over others. “
His advice to other communities in South Auckland who want improved facilities is to follow the example set by the residents of Cooper Crescent.
âAt the end of the day, we are all underfunded, but if there is a community movement behind [a new playground], this gives us an impetus to redefine funding priorities. We have found that when it is designed by the community, there will be greater ownership of it.
“For this community, it’s their playground and they’ve designed it exactly how they want it, and for me, that’s building communities.”