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Kūmara Awards Shine A Spotlight On Great Placemaking In Wellington

Five unique and diverse projects that have connected communities and transformed random spaces into meaningful places have been recognised in the Wellington region’s first placemaking awards.

The Kūmara Awards are run by Placemaking Aotearoa and are supported by Hutt City Council. The Awards recognise and celebrate great placemaking - a collaborative process where people work together to shape and change the public realm to make places better, not only for themselves but for others and for the place itself.

“Placemaking is the process of co-creating and designing or adapting public spaces to benefit the community’s well-being and happiness as well as promote cultural identity, community bonding, inclusiveness, social equality, and drive economic success. I often think about Placemaking as the invisibility cloak that connects communities” said Denise Bijoux, Placemaking Aotearoa board member.

This year winners were selected by local judges with vast experience in urban design, community development, public art, and city management. Entries were open to all projects whether they were big or small, permanent, or temporary, led by locals or professionals, big budget or small budget, but they had to have impacted their places from September 2020 - September 2021 to be nominated.

The judging panel consisted of Dr Rebecca Kiddle, Head of Urban Development Hutt City Council; Dr Mark Bradford, academic and designer at Massey University; Claire Pascoe, Transition Programme Lead at Wellington City Council and Isabella Cawthorn, a consultant for liveable towns. Judges spent hours assessing a diverse range of entries before coming up with the 5 category winners and a highly commended.

A number of criteria was considered during judging such as inclusivity, participation, lifting the mana of communities and predominantly putting people at the centre of place.

Community cycle repair shop Naenae Clubhouse Bike Box won the ‘Shifting it up a gear for equity’ category for its work to remove barriers for people trying to access transport in Naenae by providing free bikes to encourage people to connect with local cycleways and connect more with the local town centre which was struggling to draw in people.

The Bike Box takes in donated bicycles and after fixing them up, offers them to the community for free. Bike Box also offered bike fix-up sessions and mechanic workshops so people in the community could get their broken bicycles fixed, learn how to fix their own bicycles, and children can practice and learn how to ride a bicycle.

The Vogelmorn Precinct, located in Brooklyn Wellington won the ‘It Takes a Village’ category for being a living, breathing example of an integrated ‘community commons’–event space, office space, activity space, social space.

A Charitable Trust made up of locals was formed to save the Vogelmorn Bowling Club building when it was put up for sale in 2014 and since then it has been transformed into a popular community space for events, rehearsal and classes, a theatre company, community garden, a toy library, a Syrian restaurant, a coworking space, and a café. Judges felt the project was a great model of how retrofitting old infrastructure with new ways of thinking can transform a neighbourhood.

The Common Unity Project Aotearoa, based in Lower Hutt took out the ‘Tiaki whenua, tiaki tangata (care for the land, care for the people)’ category for being inclusive and participatory through its gardens and ReMakery helping people grow aroha, connection to each other and places through kai. Common Unity runs a community cooking school, helps teach children how to grow food, cook, sew, and knit as well giving back to those in need. Since 2012, well over 10,000kg of produce has been produced for the Koha kitchen, making over 30,000 lunches for school children. Through collaborations with Kaibosh and Commonsense Organics, over 110,00kg of food has been rescued.

The Engine Room Project in Porirua took out the ‘Streets for People by People’ category. Funded through Waka Kotahi Innovating Streets with support from Porirua City Council and Porirua Development, the Fantame Street neighbourhood has made Fantame Street more appealing and safer. Colourful art, strategically placed safety features, plants, seating, and tables were all used to slow traffic and create a community heart directly outside the shops and Russell School. This project was an excellent example of the co-design approach undertaken with community members; 15 locals dubbed ‘The Engine Room’.

Play in the Hutt took out the ‘Play Together, Stay Together’ category and was a movement promoting action on play. A partnership between Hutt City Council and Healthy Families Hutt Valley, funders, and the communities., Play in the Hutt addresses the problem that exists in Lower Hutt and nationwide. How do we enable our tamariki and rangatahi to play more every day? The project team implemented a series of activities addressing these issues including play days in parks and streets, bike rodeos, engagement with schools and community organisations to run their own play activities. A sport and play trailer were made available for regular community bookings. Plus fostering community led installation of play equipment in local spaces for use by the neighbourhood. Judges were impressed with the outcome of this project which was all about making play normal and visible in public spaces.

Further information on the award can be found at https://www.placemaking.nz/kumara-awards

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