Randwick Park in South Auckland is a New Zealand success story – an example of how a community, if properly enabled, can come together and help design and drive forward projects that have the potential to inspire and unify the people around them.
This multi-cultural community with a high youth population was once synonymous with crime and poverty, but in 2008, after the fatal shooting of a liquor-store owner, the community spurred into action. Not to ‘fix things’ – but to see how they could make the community better and more resilient. Over the last decade, Riverton Reserve has been at the heart of that transformation – a focus-point for community-led social enterprise initiatives helping local residents find stable employment.
In 2012, after residents pushed for an upgrade of the local park, Isthmus was engaged by Auckland Council to prepare a masterplan for Riverton Reserve. The work was undertaken within the community and the process was specifically designed to be participatory: to empower those that would ultimately end up using the park and would lead to greater ownership and kaitiakitanga of the resulting space. Now almost complete, the 7.1ha reserve includes places for sports and community activities, rationalised car parking and path networks, and areas secured for community gardens and play and market spaces.
Phase one of works saw multi-use sports courts and an expanded skate park completed – both now supported by ‘Manu Tukutuku’, a multi-use facility run by and for local people. Manurewa, where Randwick Park is located, translates from Māori as ‘a soaring kite’ or manu tukutuku, and this phrase ties the skate park to its place. This local place, designed with local people and intended to unify the community, is a place to meet and play and a place in which all the community could be proud.
The park was co-designed by local skater Walz Brown, who was invited by community leader David Tims to work alongside Isthmus over the course of a year. Under Walz’s guidance and influence, Randwick’s youth owned the design, providing input through lounge-room design sessions where 3D visualisations were spun around on TV. (Walz has since gone on to become a prominent youth leader and community role model. In 2013 he was recognised as ‘youth worker of the year’.) With the kids engaged the parents followed enthusiastically; and through their involvement they became connected to active community support groups, forming connections that they would not have otherwise.
The close working relationship with community has produced a place with a huge number of custodians; it is an all-inclusive skate park designed by its end users, a testament to a healthy community and a well-used ‘safe place’ for youth. In 2017, Randwick Park was named New Zealand Community of the Year – an award is presented alongside the New Zealander of the Year Award to recognise the achievements and contributions of community groups to the social, economic, cultural or environmental prosperity of their region. This great recognition at the highest level is further evidence, if indeed it is required, of how Randwick Park has thrived against all odds.