Subjects as diverse as excessive PC, the origin of Gonville street names and eating offal are being chewed over in Whanganui conversations designed to bring people together.

The conversations take place in Community Circles organised by the Whanganui Restorative Practices Trust, facilitator Shelly Harkness said.

There have been three so far, with nine to 16 people at each. Another is planned for tomorrow morning at the community room in the Gonville Health complex in Abbot St.

It runs from 9am to noon and anyone is welcome to go.


The occasion begins with three or four "conversation stimulators", each speaking for five to seven minutes on topics that interest them or are relevant to the community. Then there's a cuppa and people break into small groups to discuss the topics. At the end they merge back into a larger group and share their insights.

The idea was to make connections between people for a more engaged and resilient community, Mrs Harkness said. Eventually the groups could discuss community issues and find solutions - but it was too soon for that.

Mrs Harkness said it was irrelevant who was speaking tomorrow. "It's all about people connecting. The topics and speakers shouldn't be a drawcard."

The circles are a pilot project, modelled on a programme in New Plymouth.

They are funded by a grant from the Lotteries Commission. The funding is about to run out, but more will be applied for.

The Gonville/Tawhero suburbs were chosen for the pilot because they already have faith-based Maori youth and community development organisation Te Ora Hou, a neighbourhood police team and a centre with a health practice and library.

The conversations can be extended to other parts of Whanganui if successful.

There is a video about them on YouTube, and also a Facebook page.