BY JODI FRASER-BRYANT
A small-town Northland multi-activity park has become the envy of communities across the country thanks to the ongoing drive, dedication and generosity of its locals.
Both locals and outsiders are flocking to the park in coastal, idyllic Mangawhai as both its reputation and facilities grow after tireless work and fundraising has seen it transpire.
Mangawhai Activity Zone Charitable Trust (MAZ) came about nine years ago after local children complained to their parents they had nowhere safe to skate or without upsetting store keepers. A committee was subsequently formed and the idea of a skate park born.
The idea quickly developed into a family park catering for all ages and including community events. Today, the ongoing project on Molesworth Drive boasts an extensive playground featuring an impressive pirate ship, tunnels, flying saucers and a flying fox; a tennis, netball and basketball court, junior soccer field, all-weather cricket pitch, three bike pump tracks, BBQ and picnic areas, an outdoor fitness gym, and a skate bowl, which now hosts the second biggest bowl jam event in the country.
MAZ chairman Colin Gallagher says the aim was to have a range of sports and community activities available free of charge to both residents and visitors.
"We've had nothing but a super-positive response and support from the community and this is still growing each month as we add attractions."
The latest attractions - a three-stage pump track for BMX bikers for different age and skill levels running through the bush environment surrounding MAZ, and outdoor fitness gym, were completed last month.
MAZ committee member Ken Rayward says the idea of the outdoor gym is unique and a welcome addition to the park.
"It caters for all ages and fitness levels and is positioned beside the main children's playground area, enabling kids to keep an eye on their parents working out and vice-versa."
MAZ is located on over 1.5 hectares of Kaipara District Council (KDC) land, which was previously unused bush.
Although the project had initial KDC funding support, when council later struck financial difficulties, further assistance ceased. Another $500,000 is needed to complete the skate park and bring it up to Olympic standards for training ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Meanwhile, community spirit and drive have kept the park moving forward with several major funding grants from the Lotteries Commission, Foundation North and Pub Charity, along with the assistance from a host of local businesses, as well as generous locals.
"The MAZ committee looks after the maintenance and we rely on the support of local businesses to assist, which is certainly happening. To date, 1.35 million dollars has been raised outside of all the generous hours of time and supplies that has been given by locals. It is a rewarding process when you are part of The Mangawhai Community," Mr Gallagher says.
The committee hope to add ongoing features to the project with plans for an outdoor sound shell for school and community concerts.
Mr Rayward says 40,000 visitors came to MAZ over the last summer holidays and this is expected to increase further with the expansion of the BBQ and family picnic areas and other additions.
He says other regional councils have visited MAZ and stated their wish to replicate the MAZ model, built on organised community volunteer initiatives.
"Maz is certainly the envy of communities across New Zealand with what it provides to the enhancement of the Mangawhai community."