At Wesley Community Action we’re all about supporting communities to find local solutions to local problems. And we’re constantly being blown away by how good they are at it.
One recent example is the changes introduced at the Fantame Street shops in Cannons Creek to help slow down the traffic and make the street safer and more people friendly.
Thanks to the great ideas developed by the “Engine Room” – a group of 15 Cannons Creek locals guided by our very own Makerita Makapelu – the area now has seating, planters, brightly painted graphics on the footpath and along the side of the road, and parallel (rather than angle) parking.
These changes mean 85% of the traffic going past the shops and nearby Russell School now travels at less than 30km/h and the area is much safer for pedestrians and kids on bikes and scooters.
“Through this process I learned – once again – that when you give the community the opportunity to lead, and you give them the right support, they can do it, and do it really well,” says Makerita (pictured left with members of the Engine Room) who worked with Porirua City Council on the project, the first in the council’s People Changing Streets programme.
People Changing Streets is part of a wider initiative called Innovating Streets for People funded by Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency. The goal is to let local communities explore ways to make their streets safer and more liveable.
It’s based on a concept called tactical urbanism, which involves working with communities to develop low-cost, often temporary changes to improve local neighbourhoods.
Connecting with the community
At the end of last year Porirua City Council contracted Makerita, who manages Te Hiko, our community innovation hub in Porirua, to facilitate community engagement for the project. The goal was to calm the traffic down and make the area more people-friendly without having to resort to people-unfriendly measures like judder bars or putting up 30km/h signs.
As Isabella Cawthorn, engagement lead for the project points out, Makerita had the deep connections in the local community needed to achieve those goals.
“We had been worried we wouldn’t be able to get the kind of connection and engagement with the community that we wanted,” she says. “But Makerita is really well known locally and we were blown away by her facilitation skills.”
The first thing Makerita did was bring together the Engine Room, who met once a week for five weeks. Working with council street engineers they came up with a number of proposals which they presented at a series of community workshops. They also worked with tamariki at Russell School and Pukerau Kōhanga.
This was followed by a two-month trial period to give the community a chance to try out the new layout and provide their feedback. A lot of the feedback was focused on the reduction in the number of parking spaces outside the shops. As a result, the council has now added additional parking around the corner in Fawn Street and made some small layout changes.
The new street layout is expected to stay in place for several years so the community can provide long-term feedback. A decision will then be made about whether the changes will be permanent.
Makerita is hopeful they will be retained. “Changes to street layouts are always hard, especially when it comes to car parking. It’s been awesome to see that our goal of reduced speed for a safer street has been met. We’re looking forward to seeing if the new layout works for the community in the longer term as they all get used to it.”