Initiative bringing community together

By Laurilee McMichael

Jeannie Short says the Tauhara area gets a bad rap that it doesn't deserve.

``I've lived here for 30 years,'' she says.

``I'm proud to be from this area. They're real people, no pretence. ``What you see is what you get.''

But Jeannie felt the Tauhara-Paetiki community needed a boost because although it had wonderful people doing good things, it needed a way of bringing them all together.

So she got together with a group of Tauhara residents to form the Tauhara Community Support Initiative, an umbrella group for the community to support local people and groups with their ideas.

Since then, it's gone on to hold two successful twilight markets, run a design-a-logo competition, supported a slippers in schools programme at Mountview School, set up a food exchange and donations scheme, and supported a youth-led project to improve the neighbourhood's parks and reserves.

Now the group includes a wide range of organisations and individuals, community groups and a range of inputs from different viewpoints which Jeannie says is exactly what's wanted. There are 10 core members and other groups, others come in and out as they want and there is a philosophy of whanaungatanga (belonging).

Jeannie says people just want to feel good, and all that was needed was a mindset shift so the local community could acknowledge and celebrate its strengths.

``Before we openly started, I went to a lot of groups and individuals and did the spade work, and what we realised was that the community was pretty cool. It was a really positive community but through the lack of unity some people felt a bit disenfranchised from it, so we decided the focus was making that sense of belonging.''

Jeannie says the group was initially set up to expand what she was already doing on her own, but once it started it took on a life of its own.

``The community's come on board, everyone's come on board and it's been just amazing. ``I've met the most amazing people who do so much for the community and for people, without ever being recognised.''

The Tauhara area runs from roughly Kiddle Dr to Spa Rd and down to the Rifle Range Rd/Tamamutu St roundabout and the Tauhara Community Support Initiative has been running for a year.

Its most visible accomplishment has been the Paetiki twilight markets, where locals can come together to sell their crafts, show off their talents or work with others.

Jeannie says the markets, and the group, have given people a chance to be proud of where they're from as well as what's available in their area.

The twilight markets have served as a way of bringing people together, as well as providing an opportunity to just have fun and for people to showcase their ideas, skills and talents.

The Taupo District Council's community projects officer Veronica King is also working with the group and Jeannie says the council's assistance has been invaluable.

Veronica organised a planning workshop with Barbara McLennan from Inspiring Communities for the Tauhara CSI, held earlier this week, which helped the group to set out its direction for the year so that it can continue to be successful.

She says it is small things that make a difference.

``It's just helping to shift the culture and encouraging a positive culture and to know that while you might not have an affluent area that you are living in, you still have talents and gifts that can be tapped into,'' Veronica says.

The group has also acted as an umbrella for other groups, such as the Tauhara knitters who produce slippers for schoolchildren at Mountview School and for initiatives such as a Facebook page where people can donate or swap food.

Others have suggested possible projects such as recording the neighbourhood's stories.

Jeannie says the beauty of the group is that it's opened locals' eyes to the positive things going on.

``Everyone wants to be safe and happy and positive, everyone wants a decent life and everyone wants their children to have a decent life. ``People say to me `how do you get all this happening?' but really all we did was put an idea forward and the community ran with it and showed us what they wanted.''


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