Image from second steering group meeting.

Our Journey So Far…

As this is our first newsletter we thought we’d take an opportunity to tell you a bit about where we’ve come from and our journey so far. Pete Howard our chief activator and Secretary gives a personal account of how Love Kawatiri came about and where we are at:

Love Kawatiri began as a brand to encapsulate some of the community development-related projects that I’d been involved in during my time as Buller Community Development Facilitator at Buller REAP. It’s objective was to generate a positive message and community pride amongst our community, something that could help change the way we identified ourselves, incorporating our assets as the icons from the Welcome to Westport sign.

Kawatiri was chosen to recognise our Māori name for Westport and the wider Buller district. The name comes from the mighty Buller river and means “deep and swift”.

It came from a perspective that Westport and Buller have always been names I have struggled to identify with, particularly considering the fact that Thomas Brunner named our awa/river and area after his good friend Charles Buller, a British MP who never stood the upon the soils of Kawatiri. I recognise the pride that many people have in Buller and our proud sporting heritage but feel that the meaning behind our name translates into who we are.

In April 2018 we were privileged to have world-renowned community builder and social entrepreneur Peter Kenyon in our community for a series of workshops, community forums and business breakfasts. It brought together a culmination of conversations that had been taking place between Glenn Irving, myself and others surrounding the need for a vehicle to support community-led development initiatives in our community. I can vividly remember talking with Glenn about the formation of Love Kawatiri on the last day of Peter’s visit following an inspiring business breakfast event. We’d decided to work on creating this vehicle, something I could feel had so much potential and stating “If we’re going to bring this together, then I wouldn’t miss it for the world”. It’s a question that I’ve often wondered if I could stay and fulfil, but am so glad its an opportunity that makes me feel compelled to stay and be involved in.

From here we brought together a diverse steering group of up to 30 people, who came together bi-weekly for 3 months. Committing to exploring and establishing a structure which would support, empower and create the aspirations of our community, utilising its strength to develop its future.

One of the stages we felt was important was to get the structure of the trust established before we started trying to engage and activate projects in our community. We wanted to get the background work out of the way so that we could be in a position to support and mobilise our communities aspirations.

In September we were finally in a position to register our trust deed and to apply for charitable status with the steering group transferring into the election of our initial Trustees: Glenn Irving, Dida Scanlon, Peter Campbell, Daniel Reynolds, Kane Hogan, Nicky Meadowcroft, and Hannah Green, while I supported the trust in an ex-officio capacity to avoid any potential conflicts at that time with my job.

We’re really lucky to have such a diverse, capable and passionate group of trustees who were charged with continuing the establishment of Love Kawatiri and its engagement with the community.

An initial challenge for me as someone who had been so heavily involved in the development of Love Kawatiri was having no voting rights in decisions, however its actually been something I’ve found really beneficial and while occasionally I’ve had to check that I’m keeping trustees informed and acting on their direction, we have pretty much always reached consensus and bring a broad range of perspectives to the table.

As a trust, we’ve met monthly and have now got the trust structure pretty well established and in a good position to support various community-led initiatives, with our predominant focus at present being to engage & empower our community. At times it’s felt like slow progress and that we’ve had to spend a lot of time shuffling administrative paper while developing proposal/presentations in a bid to inform, connect and fund. However, as the saying goes Rome wasn’t built in a day and while I often wish we could help change the world overnight, I feel comfortable that were being built on solid foundations and I get excited about our continued development and the great people and things happening in our community.

So far we’ve done a range of initiatives such as Big Idea Cards and our Community Planning Party to gather your ideas and our shared aspirations as a community. We’ve supported initiatives such as Boomerang Bags / Enviro Kawatiri, Chips N’ Jams and the installation of a new track in the Westport Domain. While we’re currently focused on our Community Revitalisation projects to support community makeovers of the Sue Thomson Memorial Library and Dery St. (Spider Park), projects that we feel can help transform our community and continue to make it an even better place.

For me personally, it’s been an interesting journey, having finished my role with Buller REAP at the end of last year, I’d been feeling like it was time to leave the Coast. I’d been back sometime and had been feeling a little bit burnt out and ready for a change. After taking time out from community work and focusing on biking around, enjoying our backyard I decided it wasn’t time to leave. With each job opportunity that popped up away, I’d struggle to apply as I’d start questioning the different quality of life on offer from living back in a city.

In the end, I decided that I still wanted to stay in Kawatiri and help contribute to making a difference in our community. I felt that I’d committed to something in co-founding Love Kawatiri and I needed to see it through, ultimately it encapsulated what I wanted to achieve and my passion for this special place we call ‘home’. It’s been a challenging journey as we’ve dedicated our time and energy into trying to establish Love Kawatiri and generate projects in our community on a shoestring budget with limited resources. However, its been hugely rewarding and humbling to receive so much goodwill from our community in supporting what we’re doing. 

We’ve moved into an office space in EPIC Westport that we’re sharing with Te Hā o Kawatiri, thanks to Ben, Natasha Dellaca and the EPIC whānau. To date, we’ve had over $35,000 in indicated support towards the funding of our soon to be advertised Community Development Manager role, thanks to wide-ranging support from some fantastic businesses, organisations and individuals in our own community.

We’ve got along road travel and sometimes I need to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint but feel rest assured that together we can come together as a community to unleash our potential and turn our passions into action for the benefit of future generations. I’m excited about the great things going on in our community, our accomplishments, and our people. I feel a sense of pride in Kawatiri I never had growing up and a sense of confidence in what we can create as a community.

We’re not in this alone and we’re grateful to all of the people and organisations out there making this community an even better place to live and visit.

If you’re interested in getting involved then get in touch and pop in and see us at EPIC Westport, we’d love to have you involved and support you with your ideas!

Kia Kaha Kawatiri!

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