At Te Hiko we’re all about supporting communities to find local solutions to local problems, and to grow their skills while they do it. And we’re constantly being blown away by how good they are at it.
One recent example is the changes introduced at the Fantame Street shops in Cannons Creek to help slow down the traffic ad make the street safer and more people friendly. People Changing Streets is part of a wider initiative called Innovating Streets for People funded by Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency. The goal is to let local communities explore ways to make their streets safer and more liveable. It’s based on a concept called tactical urbanism, which involves working with communities to develop low-cost, often temporary changes to improve local neighbourhoods.
Through this process we learned – once again – that when you give the community the opportunity to lead, and you give them the right support, they can do it, and do it really well.
Knowing our skills and working together
The point of difference on this project happened when the lead contractor, Isabella Cawthorn, walked into the Te Hiko house and asked us to work with her on the project. She knew that the key to success was going to be working in relationship with locals, and she didn't have those relationships. We were able to take on the role of facilitating community engagement for the project. The goal was to calm the traffic down and make the area more people-friendly with measures that work.
Local democracy in action
Our communities too often have the experience of being done to rather than getting to take active roles. While we don't normally have traffic management as one of our focus areas, the opportunity to engage in local democracy through a local decision-making project, was really exciting.
Seizing opportunities to grow capability
We noticed that there was a huge opportunity here, not just for locals to be part of the decision making, but for locals to grow their own skills and experience in facilitating difficult community conversations - our goal was to make it so that next time we wanted to do a project like this, we had 15 more locals to call on to do the facilitation mahi.
Giving and taking feedback
This project was the first in the council’s People Changing Streets programme. One of the pieces of feedback that the Engine Room gave to Council staff was that community can and should be involved from the very start. Because of the trusted relationships we built during this project the Council were really happy to take that feedback and do something with it. Some of the Engine Room were able to sit down with Council Staff right at the beginning of the next project - heading into the back office of Council and helping to fill out the funding application, setting the scene from the beginning and having government processes demystified at the same time.
So what happened?
The first thing we did was bring together the Engine Room, who met once a week for five weeks. Working with street engineers they came up with a number of proposals which they presented at a series of community workshops, learning and practicing facilitation skills. They also worked with tamariki at Russell School and Pukerau Kōhanga.
This was followed by a two-month trial period to give the community a chance to try out the new layout and provide their feedback. A lot of the feedback was focused on the reduction in the number of parking spaces outside the shops. As a result, the council has now added additional parking around the corner in Fawn Street and made some small layout changes. Thanks to the great ideas developed by the “Engine Room” – a group of 15 Cannons Creek locals guided by our very own Makerita Makapelu – the area now has seating, planters, brightly painted graphics on the footpath and along the side of the road, and parallel (rather than angle) parking.
These changes mean 85% of the traffic going past the shops and nearby Russell School now travels at less than 30km/h and the area is much safer for pedestrians and kids on bikes and scooters.
The new street layout is expected to stay in place for several years so the community can provide long-term feedback. A decision will then be made about whether the changes will be permanent.
In the Te Hiko whānau: How is this contributing to growing better economic systems and adding value in our communities?
Part of local economic systems is strong engagement in democracy.
To make bold economic change, local people need to be able to trust their democratic systems, see value in engaging with them and grow their capacity to do so.
We don't normally have local traffic calming as a priority area, but practicing weighing up competing priorities and views to come to collective decisions that help us meet a goal is something we really focus on - you haven't engaged in local democracy until you have taken part in a community kōrero about car parking!