Mangere Central, one of the country's most economically and socially challenged enclaves, is in line for an urban project that will make walking and cycling safer.
Researchers with a $3 million government grant have spent 18 months getting close to the community to discover what it would take to get residents out of their cars and into healthier exercise habits.
They are backed to the hilt by the Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board, which has voted to spend about $1.7 million on three projects which will among other things form a 2km recreational walking and cycling circuit from Mangere town centre, taking in Windrush Reserve and Mascot Ave.
The reserve has a bad crime record, including a history of sex attacks, but board chairwoman Lydia Sosene hopes opening it up as part of a circuit with good lighting and see-through fences will encourage more people including family groups to use it for fitness and recreation as well as easier access to the town centre.
Mascot Ave is a busy route connecting Massey Rd and Bader Drive, which she says is now too dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists despite passing between a primary school and a retirement village.
Auckland Transport and the Transport Agency expect to match her board's funding, having won approval from a national road safety committee to make the package one of four national "signature" projects under the Government's Safer Journeys campaign.
That is on top of the $3 million grant from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment for a four-year research exercise in which social scientists and public health experts have joined forces to assess impacts on the community, compared with a "control" area in Mangere East.
Project leader Hamish Mackie hopes improvements can ultimately spread to Mangere East.
He expects close community consultation to be the key to success, to find out what residents feel will make the quality of their lives better.
His team has been canvassing views at the shopping centre and other public places, and will conduct extensive household surveys in both parts of Mangere to gauge results.
"We know road safety problems are more likely in lower socio-economic communities and Mangere is over-represented in chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes," Dr Mackie told a Traffic Institute conference in Auckland.
"It means if we focus of some of these communities, we're more likely to get a better return on our investment."
He told the Herald the social cost of road crashes in Mangere Central in the past five years - 28 per cent involving pedestrians - was assessed at $18 million.
Among concepts yet to be finalised, but on which both he and Ms Sosene hope physical work can start early next year, are turning Windrush Close into twin cul-de-sacs separated by a barrier to vehicles to make it safer for residents and their children to walk and play outside their homes.
"There's a lot of support from local people," Dr Mackie said.
"A lot of kids play there - if you go down there on a nice evening in summer, this street is just awash with kids running around in nappies and all sort of things.
"Why would you want to discourage that - why not just make it safer for them?"
Ms Sosene expected the initiative to be "a huge game changer" which would lift her community by making it safer and easier to get moving.
What it is: Urban design, public health and road safety project for Mangere Central.
What it will cost: About $7 million (including a $3 million four-year government research grant).
When changes will be seen: From next year.