Under City Vision, Albert-Eden Local Board has adopted a genuinely community-led approach to engagement with its communities, by letting the communities find out what their aspirations are for their own communities. Last year it funded the Sandringham Project in Community Empowerment (SPiCE) group to do that, and the resulting report was presented to the Board at its 3 August meeting.

Paying tribute to the group’s dedication, hard graft and perseverance, Board Chair Peter Haynes noted that this approach to engagement is quite novel in our part of the world: “In Auckland this project is something of a pilot and a blueprint for the future.”

“SPiCE engaged the community in many truly creative ways. These included holding a Flower Carpet Festival and surveying the people attending, getting local school children to draw pictures and tell stories about their needs and hopes, and using shop hoardings near the reserve to display options for feedback and to vote,” said Peter.

The first part of the project is already being realised. Local people were asked for their desires for the local park in the village centre, and these results were used to brief artists whose designs were voted on. The winning design included a pebble-mat for the entrance to the park that pupils at the local school made with the artist’s help. The Reserve upgrade should be finished by the end of August, and Sandringham people will have a park that they can truly call their own.

“The results are fascinating. And provide us with a challenge, says Peter. “”How do we meet the aspirations of Sandringham people? In many cases, such as developing more sports facilities, we are already working to meet community priorities as fast as budgets and organisational capacity allow. In other cases, we will need to look at refining existing policies. Planting in parks, for example.

“In other cases—a welcoming entrance and sign to Sandringham village, for example—there is the opportunity for the community to take over the project and make it completely their own.

“My hope is that SPiCE continues to provide leadership and drive for further projects to realise their community’s deepest aspirations. And that other communities will be inspired to follow suit.

“Then we will really be engaging with our people as never before in the Auckland City area,” says Peter.

So, it’s time to celebrate a job well done, a real contribution to the Sandringham community and (we hope) to the way that Auckland Council approaches empowering communities.