Our local streets are where we’ve played for generations. Neighbourhood activities such as water fights, cricket, and riding bikes are the fabric of many childhood memories, but this cherished past-time has been on the decline in recent years. Parents and children are less likely to encourage neighbourhood play due to several persistent factors, including extensive use of cars, congestion and lack of neighbourly connection.
Community Play Streets for Tāmaki Makaurau or ‘Play Streets’ is funded as part of Waka Kotahi’s Innovating Streets for People initiative. Play Streets is a new community-led approach, working to revive this childhood past-time and provide whānau and community with the right to play on the street once again in West and South Auckland. This initiative sees Healthy Families Waitākere and Healthy Families South Auckland partner with community champions to create small, local events for street residents to enjoy with one another.
Healthy Families Waitākere Manager, Kerry Allan, explains.
“A Play Street is a simple, low-cost event where residents work together to temporarily limit vehicles on a quiet street, providing a place for children to play and neighbours to connect with one another. We (Healthy Families Waitākere) help residents to design and plan the Play Street, which usually runs for about half a day on the weekend.”
The initiative works to test Auckland Transport’s current framework for residential street closures, to streamline the process for residents to enable events like this to be managed by a neighbourhood with ease.
Several Play Streets have already taken place in West and South Auckland, with every street wanting to continue running the events with their neighbours ongoing.
“Everybody came out old and young for a day on the streets to play – whether it was basketball, cricket, Holi powder tag, giant bubbles and face painting. It was one of the most incredible days ever because it provided a fun and safe place for our families to play and connect with one another.
We found out so much about our neighbours; one woman we found was very sick and needed support, while another woman after the event came to me crying because her granddaughter had made new friends. It’s been a few weeks now, but people are still talking about the play street, and the neighbours are still playing out every day since then.
I’d like to thank everyone who helped bring this to life, we couldn’t have done it without their support. “
In South Auckland, Play Street events were held in Te Wirihana (Wiri), Māngere and Takaanini, with the latter being led by a cohort of women from the Te Mahia Community Village (Cunningham Place).
“Play Streets provided a safe environment for our children to connect and have fun with local families and neighbours. It was great to see our ideas come to life and our people look out for each other. We had it all – traditional games, facilitated by rangatahi, as well as Cook Island performers, gutterball, karaoke, face painting, arts & crafts, kai, and a great deal of fun had by all ages.”
The initiative is a collaborative, cross-agency partnership led by Auckland Council and Auckland Transport, alongside community partners Healthy Families Waitākere and Healthy Families South Auckland, with funding from the Innovating Streets fund from Waka Kotahi.
Article added: Friday 21 May 2021