It takes a village: Meet the Women putting community first

From left to right: Cath Poutney, Maxine and Angela Katipa (Te Mahia Community Village Play Streets organisers)

It was a foggy Saturday morning when the Te Mahia Community Village Manager Maxine rose at 4.30am on ANZAC weekend.

Normally reserved for relaxing and remembrance, the day ahead would be a whirlwind of planning, activity and most importantly, community with the first Community Play Streets for Tāmaki Makaurau or “Play Streets” pilot in South Auckland.

Maxine is a no-nonsense, community minded wāhine Māori; committed to bettering the lives of the 150 residents she oversees.

Having been managing Te Mahia Community Village, a short-medium emergency and transitional accommodation facility, for over 6 years now, Maxine says connecting residents to the community is key to maintaining safety and harmony in the village.

“Because of the nature of Te Mahia, we see lots of people come and go, some are good apples and others not-so-good, my job is to make sure everyone feels safe and secure,” says Maxine.

Six weeks ago, Healthy Families South Auckland teamed up with Maxine and Te Mahia co-managers Rima and Roger Nakhle to bring South Auckland’s first Play Streets pilot to life.

Six committed wāhine led the pilot and were motivated to create a dedicated and communal space for whānau to play and be active.

“It’s the women who are the backbone of any society,” says Te Mahia resident and organiser Cath Poutney, “we are the ones who get on with and get the work done. We’re not ruled by ego; our driver is always family and children.”

Play Streets was held in a quiet cul de sac on Cunningham Place in Takaanini. Approximately 160 people, along with 70 children, participated in the four-hour activation, watch the video here.

There were traditional Māori games, facilitated by rangatahi from Time2Train, as well as Cook Island performers, gutterball, karaoke, face painting, arts & crafts, kai and a great deal of fun had by all ages.

“We loved seeing the kids play on the street again, it brought back memories of playing on the streets ourselves,” says Angela Katipa, Te Mahia resident and organiser.

Play Streets is an event where cars are kept out of the road for a short time, so people can take over the space, giving whānau extra space to be playful and active.

“It was a safe environment for our kids. We had a group of guys looking out for cars and making sure everything was sealed off,” says Maxine.

“When a street is a safe place for fun and family activities, neighbours and whānau are able to connect with one another,” says Healthy Families South Auckland Lead Systems Innovator, Nicola Dennison.

“The community champions were concerned about their tamariki, who spend a lot of time indoors. It was great seeing the young ones enjoy the day. Play streets are run with the support of the people who live on the street. It’s great to see local people leading the organisation of the event and making it suitable for those who live here,” Nicola adds.

Having been in the village for seven months, this was the first time resident and organiser Tiare Tuapou-William had been involved in organising a community event like this.

“We were in the kitchen last night getting the food ready and it was a great chance to get to know my neighbours,” Tiare says, adding, “It encouraged residents to say hello to each other and mix and mingle.”

The ladies, who were part of the organising committee, say they hope to host another Play Streets event in their neighbourhood.

“I would like to see this type of event happen more regularly,” says Cath, adding on that she thinks it’s a really good idea.

“It brings people together and makes us, as a community, remember how to give back to the world we live in.”

Community Play Streets for Tāmaki Makaurau is part of Waka Kotahi (NZ Transport Agency) Innovating Streets programme, and is a collaborative initiative underway in Tāmaki Makaurau, managed by Auckland Council, Healthy Families South Auckland and Healthy Families Waitākere.

Did you attend the Takaanini Play Streets event? Let us know how you thought it went by clicking here.