New Zealand is trying to find its way back to grassroots community development, with Dunedin’s Northeast Valley one of five government-funded trials nationally.
### ODT Online Sun, 15 Sep 2013
Building a sense of community in Northeast Valley
By Bruce Munro
Throughout New Zealand, including in government circles, the tide is rising with a desire to see neighbourhoods once again creating their own strong and sustainable vibrant communities. Insiders call it community-led development, or just CLD. It is the opposite of both individual apathy and top-down attempts to solve community ills.
It is what 60 years ago was simply called ”being neighbourly”, ”taking the bull by the horns” and ”doing our bit”.
In the 21st century, however, it is an untried, risky but potentially better way of strengthening social fabric and building resilience in the face of increasing community fragmentation and looming economic and ecological uncertainties. So the Department of Internal Affairs, having decided it should be able to get more bang for its $18 million-per-year community funding buck, has launched a trial of the community-led development approach.
Five communities have been selected for their high unemployment or low average income; sizeable Maori, Pacific Island or ethnic minority communities; multiple issues to address; strengths to build on; and current or potential leaders to spearhead the charge.
North East Valley was the only South Island community chosen. The other triallists are Whirinaki in Northland, Mount Roskill in Auckland, Mangakino, north of Taupo, and Cannons Creek/Waitangirua, east of Porirua.
Community-building activities in the valley
Dinners, community garden working bees, the Valley Voice newsletter, Transition Valley 473’s fruit tree planting and workshops, and the community choir – were already running before the trial began. But the project’s executive now has a list of more than 40 projects that have been mooted, investigated or kick-started.
The valley’s story is its own. But it also mirrors changes and challenges many communities face. Today, North East Valley has a resident population of about 4500. According to the 2006 census, the most recent data available, almost 80% are European and 7.3% are Maori. More than 9% and 3%, respectively, are Asian and Pacific Islanders, in both cases double the Otago average.
A third of valley dwellers class themselves as professionals, more than 11% are unemployed, and a quarter of families have one parent. The median income for those over the age of 15 is about $13,000, roughly half the Otago average.
Project website: northeastvalley.org