As I have mentioned before in this column, one of Sport Northland's new approaches in striving to reach our bold vision of "all Northlanders leading better lives through involvement in play, active recreation and sport", is to influence and enable targeted Northland communities to focus on young people in a community-led way.
Te Kopuru, just south of Dargaville, was featured in this column in June, and another such community is Paparoa, a small settlement nestled in a peaceful valley on a headwater of the mighty Kaipara Harbour. Its history is rich with tribal settlement and warfare in pre-colonial times and in the 19th century, like Te Kopuru, it became a major shipping and boat-building centre when the region was in its kauri milling heyday.
Paparoa is now a popular hub for villagers, farmers and artisans of all types and is a strong and vibrant community. The village now has a population of approximately 270 who are known for their can-do attitude, and what is happening now is no exception.
Recently a local community member said, "shall we build a mountain bike track?" and the local school principal echoed "let's build a pump track and connect the village to the school".
From those ideas, the Paparoa Sport and Recreation group proposed to other local groups that they could work together to start to support the ideas. This new group called itself the "Paparoa Connections Group" consisting of Paparoa School, Paparoa Sport and Recreation group, Paparoa Promotions, North Kaipara Showgrounds Committee, Kaipara District Council and Sport Northland.
Surveys were put out through the local Facebook pages and at local events to see if the mountain bike track was something that the locals wanted. There was an astounding response from the community with over 100 people replying and the feedback demonstrated significant support for the track to be built.
This started the group to think – do we need to ask more questions of how else our community can connect? This is when it was decided to call a whole community workshop.
Facilitated by Gail Fotheringham from Kaipara District Council, over 30 community members attended representing all aspects of the community. Ideas ranged from various walking and cycling tracks to link the whole of Paparoa, to creating opportunities for young and old to connect as well as support for the mountain bike track, tracks under bridges and much more.
Upon asking how the participants felt after the workshop they stated "excited, re-invigorated, inspired". A follow-up workshop was held a few weeks later delving deeper into the original ideas and linking and theming them. Participants worked on mapping their ideas on paper, comparing and discussing them further. From here there will be a steering group formed to review the workshops and a project team to draw up an action plan.
It's fantastic to see Northland communities such as Te Kopuru and Paparoa seizing control of their own futures and creating new physical activity opportunities, particularly for their tamariki.