Blackball: Embracing Opportunity

The town of Blackball is stepping up to meet the opportunities predicted to come from the new Paparoa Track and Pike29 Memorial Track between Blackball and Punakaiki. The latest addition to New Zealand’s Great Walks, this track is expected to attract 6000 people per year when it opens in 2019.

Since the announcement of the new track in 2015, the residents of Blackball – a town of 300 – have spent the last two years working with the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) knitting together a unified outlook and building strategic relationships with national and local authorities. Determined to keep the vision and values of the local community at the heart of decisions for the town as tourism grows, Blackball has entered into a partnership for community-led development with DIA. With DIA offering five years of support, the residents plan to use this opportunity to achieve significant community-driven change in their town.

“The partnership is less about funding and more about working together as a community with common goals and aspirations” – Cynthia Robins, member of the Steering Committee

Building diverse and collaborative local leadership

A volunteer Steering Committee formed after an inspirational workshop co-hosted by Inspiring Communities and neighbourhood-building champion Jim Diers. While leaders in their own right, they will be the first to say that it is the community that leads change in Blackball. The Committee forges strategic relationships, tackles roadblocks to progress, and brings the community together when it’s time for action.

Using shared local visions to drive action and change

The residents of Blackball see their community as their greatest strength. They use town meetings, postal and online surveys, door-knocking and anonymous voting ballots placed in local businesses to ensure that every single resident of the town has an opportunity to put forward ideas and participate in decisions. At no point in the idea development or decision-making process is there a single leader or group making decisions on behalf of everyone else.

“We try very hard not to be a benign dictatorship. We open the dialogues with the right organisations and advocate for the community of Blackball to make things happen” – Cynthia Robins

Many people, groups and sectors working together

For a period of four months, the Committee met every week with representatives from DOC, DIA, Development West Coast, Grey District Council and Tai Poutini Polytech, forging strong alliances and planning a community open day. Roadblocks are a natural part of any development project and these relationships are key to gaining outcomes.

Over the last two years, the residents of Blackball have become fully engaged in being part of the change they want to see in their town.

“The community leads. The Committee is just there holding all the different strings but it is the community that pulls the reins” – Cynthia Robins

Embracing the new opportunities offered through their partnership with DIA, the town is determined to learn from the support they will receive over the next five years so that they emerge fully empowered to create the changes they want for their community.


Ōpōtiki using their taonga to harbour a dream

Decades ago, some Whakatōhea kaumatua advocated farming the sea, and rebuilding  the marine based economy which the Iwi had been renowned for pre-confiscation.  At the time there was scepticism –  maybe the vision seemed impossible….

Ōpōtiki now has the largest offshore marine farm in New Zealand and local iwi, Te Whakatōhea is the majority shareholder. Over the past 20 years Te Whakatōhea and partners have  co invested in research and farming infrastructure to harvest spat and grow mussels. Both are now being produced at extraordinary rates.

It’s now time to fulfil the plans to develop the Ōpōtiki Harbour so that both the farm can be serviced and the mussels processed locally – generating local jobs and wealth. Regional commitment to investment is lined up, awaiting government commitment so that construction can commence.

Ōpōtiki, an eastern Bay of Plenty sea side town resident to nearly 5 thousand, was once considered one of New Zealand’s most deprived communities. The town has had heavy unemployment, decreases in population, and a large dependence on government benefits. Increasingly both locals and outsiders are perceiving it differently. They’re beginning to believe that benefits plus seasonal work in kiwifruit need no longer be the only option for a significant portion of the population.

Through their joint leadership, Te Whakatōhea and the Ōpōtiki District Council have integrated iwi and community-led development approaches to empower their community’s transformation.

Shared local visions drive action and change

Ōpōtiki had a desire for change, they envisioned a community that could be more sustainable: Iwi saw opportunity for economic growth congruent with their values and aspirations, that would lead to job opportunities for their people; the Council saw potential in a sustainable seafood industry, along with other industries enabled by a viable harbour, which  would all support the community’s wider vision for change.

Using existing strengths and assets

UTe Whakatōhea has  a strong connection to the sea. Traditionally known as enterprising seafarers and coastal traders, their history is closely linked to the ocean. The community saw their vision as an asset, one of great value in rebuilding a vibrant local economy and wellbeing. Layered over this was Ōpōtiki harbour. It had been developed in European settlement times for whaling and coastal trading, and was once a busy, thriving harbour – a connection to both European and Māori heritage.

Many people, groups and sectors working together

MTe Whakatōhea, settled on their vision to develop the marine farm,  reached out to multiple groups and organisations to assist.  Ōpōtiki District Council, with community support got behind the initiative, taking leadership to develop the Harbour.  Getting the marine farm underway and confirming the viability of the harbour development has been complex.  Processes with community, iwi, multiple central and local government layers, scientist, researchers, investors and a wide range of businesses. There’s been effort regionally, nationally and internationally  over many years and that’s created more relationships and trading opportunities both here and overseas.

The Ōpōtiki Marine Advisory Group, established nearly a decade ago, has been a constant thread at the local level, bringing Council, Te Whakatōhea, marine farm leadership and other business people, to the table, along with funders, the regional council and economic development agency.

Working adaptively, learning informs planning and action 

WOver the decades of persistence, patches of progress have been frequently interrupted by knock- backs and road- blocks. Two things stand out. One is a collective determination to keep going, learning from experience and adapting to new circumstances and ideas. The other is the value of diverse skills, knowledge and leadership skills around the tables driving these projects, which means different people and organisations can step up when leadership is needed, and then step back as new challenges and opportunities emerge, demanding other expertise.

Watch Ōpōtiki Mussell Farm on Seven Sharp.

Te Hā o Mātauranga Kaikoura

People sitting at tables, Kaikoura.

Te Hā o Mātauranga – Learning in Kaikōura is a community hub. Local people people doing extraordinary things following the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake.

Kaikōura is a small coastal town located on the east coast of the South Island – largely known for its whale watching and tourism economy. Te Hā o Mātauranga – Learning in Kaikōura , opened its doors in March 2017 only 3 months after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the town the previous November.  Operating from what was once Kaikōura ’s museum building, the space has been transformed into a community collective with workshops and educational training.

Talking to Sarah Beardmore the Coordinator of Te Hā o Mātauranga,  it’s easy to see the enthusiasm and love the community have for their town.

“Our main ethos is to promote, enable and encourage learning opportunities within the community. With support of the JR McKenzie Trust, MBIE and the Lottery Hurunui Kaikōura  Marlborough earthquake relief fund we are building on exciting prospects, while recognising the impact the earthquake has had.”

One example is MBIE’s  Curious Mind Fund. “It enabled us to join with University of Canterbury to work with local youth who have become involved in the post earthquake science research that has brought so many scientists to Kaikōura  ” Sarah says SKIP has also been involved in funding positive activities for parents of 0 – 5 year olds – one of the activities,  a photovoice project designed to  share stories about sleep since the earthquake, will culminate in an exhibition in the anniversary week of the earthquake in November.

“But we want to look forward. So we’re running workshops to garner ideas and vision.  Megan Courtney and Kindra Douglas from Inspiring Communities’ ran two workshops here recently, helping the community to build on their existing strengths in a sustainable way.”

Community-led principles are also  scattered throughout Te Hā o Mātauranga’s approach to recovery and positive change.

Utilising existing strengths and assets

“The issues facing Kaikōura  existed pre-earthquake but they are just  greater now. The community Is turning a negative situation into something positive. By capitalising on the environment, using our contacts and our community’s strengths we have come together and enabled the community to move forward using tools like education. An afterschool programme for children run by a passionate local, to create crafts from recycled materials  has led to new ideas around adults creating items from recycled materials – hopefully for on-selling. Local experts have come forward to support learning – for example a primary school teacher has run reading afternoons for school children and another is running slam poetry workshops. “

Shared local visions drive change

The group and the  community as a whole are focusing on upskilling: promoting education across all age groups.  “So we encourage external providers to offer training in Kaikōura ,  but as well,  we support  locals to share their skills and ideas.”  Te Hā’s space has hosted a number of different educational training sessions from a partnership with He Toki, a Ngāi Tahu Māori trades training academy, who ran a 3 week course supporting people getting back into work, to a tertiary level business administration course run by ARA.

Many people, groups and sectors working together

Te Hā o Mātauranga is looking towards the next five years. The goal of the hub is for our Kaikōura  families to have the confidence and optimism to make the choices they want to. Sarah reinforced the important role Te Hā is now playing to “connect and enable  locals, local and central government agencies, philanthropists, businesses – basically anyone with a role to get us to that goal!

“By growing a culture of learning in Kaikōura  and promoting and enabling learning opportunities, we hope to give people the support they need to grow their skills, confidence and capability.”

For more information, see their Facebook page here.

My Inspiring Community – Randwick Park

They began asking locals what would improve their place … a few years later Randwick Park has won 2017 community of the year.  Maree Beaven recently talked to us about what they’ve achieved so far and how.


Randwick Park has also very kindly shared their story to be apart of our 2017 election manifesto please feel free to read it, and share it.