As I have mentioned before in this column, one of Sport Northland's new approaches in striving to reach their bold vision of "all Northlanders leading better lives through involvement in play, active recreation and sport", is to influence and enable Northland communities to focus on young people in a community-led way.
One such community is Te Kopuru, a tiny settlement 11km south of Dargaville. This little town is like many Northland communities in that they once had an industry that provided a base of employment which sustained them economically, which has since either closed or moved to a bigger population base.
In Te Kopuru's case, it was originally the centre of the kauri log industry that housed several sawmills and ship-building firms, and later a maternity hospital that closed in 1971, moving the birthing unit to the newer Dargaville Hospital.
As such, moving from a population (in its hey-day) of more tahn 3000 to about 500 currently can be hard on the morale of a small community like Te Kopuru.
But this community has taken this in its stride and come together with a dream of creating an environment that encourages physical activity for its residents, particularly young people.
The community dream of developing the Te Kopuru Domain as a park for local tamariki and their whānau is finally coming to fruition. This first stage has been a multi-purpose outdoor gym and a basketball half-court, as well as barbecue tables and plantings.
More than 300 locals (that's well over half the population) celebrated the opening of the first stage of their project, followed by a fun afternoon of games, tug of war, health checks, kite making, face painting and horse rides as well as fire engine rides from the local fire brigade.
The event was led by the Te Kopuru Community Development Group (TKCDG) and supported by a new group called Kaipara Tamariki Collective, a collaboration of agencies coming together to promote young people across the wider district.
The day also gave residents the chance to give feedback to the TKCDG on what else they would like to see at the park. This feedback will provide guidance in what is wanted at the park that may not have already been thought of, ensuring the community-led concept is kept to the fore.
The domain has been a barren area for a long time. It previously had a bowling club but after it closed, the buildings were removed and the area became an eyesore with broken concrete and overgrown shrubbery. The locals had a vision to turn the area into a family-friendly place, and now with the playground, basketball hoop and some landscaping in place, they are focused on listening to the community feedback and working through the list of further amenities.
Local Te Kopuru resident Violet Hutchinson, a founding member of TKCDG, was thrilled at the support the event attracted.
"Thanks to everyone for their support, this has been a long time coming and now look at how you have all pulled this together for our TK whānau," she said.
It's fantastic to see Northland communities such as Te Kopuru seizing control of their own futures and creating activity opportunities for their tamariki.