Last night we joined several hundred locals for the twilight opening of the new park: Horotutu - “Our place”. There was free food, the shortest of annual meetings for the Community Trust and then there were thanks to all involved
As one who laboured for years on the Paihia Planning Committee to get the District Council to take our little community seriously, I found it absolutely stunning to see what has been achieved. The Council has obviously come to the party, instituting a special rates levy of $9 or so per household for local amenities and services. After several public consultations and submissions to many official bodies, the small maritime car park was cleared to be turned into a people space.
Then the voluntary work began. Commercial firms donated goods or gave big discounts for supplies. Contractors loaned machinery and allocated staff resources. Teams of volunteers worked separately to construct half a dozen separate features. Several individuals gave three months of full-time work every day, many of them discovering skills they did not know they had. One group provided meals for the workers every day for the whole three months.
The result is a beautiful green space incorporating the existing trees, augmented with special seating and the various features dreamed up by the “placemakers”. The cost has been in excess of $150,000 a large part of which was expended in feature lighting that changes colour every few seconds. A psychedelic piano, a huge illuminated model of the Bay of Islands, a stunning water and light feature and a telephone box library of books for free exchange. Other placemaking projects are invited and will be incorporated into this outstanding new amenity for the town.
Our Council representatives used to berate us because, they said, Paihia people could never agree about what they wanted. And it’s true that a few are still bemoaning the loss of 26 car spaces on the waterfront. But already small communities in this country and overseas are hearing what can be achieved when local people take some responsibility for their environment and try to do something about it. Well done, I say.
Isn’t this something like Local Shared Ministry? Small churches don’t have to wait for the national church to do it all for them. They have the resources, they have the people; all they need is the will and the commitment. And with some help from officialdom, great results can be achieved.