Social Development Minister Paula Bennett made it clear when she launched Make It Happen Te Hiku last year that she had high expectations, and she did not hide her delight when she formally received the community action plan at Te Ahu in Kaitaia on Tuesday.

"You have more than delivered," she said.

"This is stunning, absolutely outstanding work. I am completely smitten.

"It's yours, it is owned by you, and where we go now and what we do with this is very important. And whatever we do we have to do together," she added.


Last year she had asked the community to tell her what services were needed and how they should be delivered.

"This was a new initiative, where the community was given a blank sheet of paper and challenged to come up with a plan to ensure social spending in Kaitaia and the wider district was effective," she said.

"This report signals the beginning of work between the Te Hiku community, social service agencies and government to implement the plan."

Some 1250 people had taken part in consultation last year, expressing a desire to build a more prosperous region, with a strong emphasis on improving health and well-being. The report identified a range of areas to focus on, including increasing enrolment rates in kura kaupapa and early childhood education, increasing NCEA achievement rates, raising median household incomes and reducing youth offending.

"As I said when I put the challenge to Te Hiku last year, the way it's always been done doesn't have to be how it's done now," Mrs Bennett said.

"We have a great opportunity to actually turn things around for this community, and with support from iwi, NGOs, and the more than 1200 residents who contributed to this report, we have a community-led plan to turn talk into action for Te Hiku."

Finance Minister Bill English did not make any rash promises but did agree with Mrs Bennett that communities knew more about what they needed to progress than did politicians and bureaucrats. And, from a pragmatic point of view, when communities did well they saved the government and a lot of money.

"I share Paula's belief in the capacity of this community," he said.


"Even if it's hard, you will do a better job than we can do."