Contributing to our Porirua City (New Zealand) Communities: Serving on the Paremata Residents Association

I’ve always been a book wormer!

No doubt about that. I started realising this passion while I was at primary school in Vanuatu. The last five years has seen me read about 100 books a year. Sometimes I would stay awake all night just reading and writing what I had learnt from the books-mostly from the self development books. The odd times, I would read a non-fiction book like an autobiography (the likes of Hillary Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama) to get inspiration and motivation. My recent book which I read in an entire day was yesterday and it was called “The Boy who harnessed the wind” by Bryan Mealer. This story was about a 14 year old boy (William Kamkwamba) who defied the odds to build a windmill in Malawi, Africa to better the lives of those around him but more importantly to change the community. How inspirational!

I’ve served on the Committee of Paremata Residents Association as the Communications Officer for over two years. I’ve always wanted to contribute a little community project to the area I live in. The community has been so important to me and I honour and respect that (being alone with no families in a foreign land). The few summers I have spent in the park-I’ve often observed children in parks or playgrounds and I’ve pictured myself with the children under the trees reading. What could potentially go wrong? 🙂

The time came this year 2017 for our Paremata Residents Association to submit our Village Planning projects where we residents feel it is important for our Porirua City Council to help improve services etc. Some of the projects that we have been working on included (with many others):

-Improved access between Eskdale Road in Papakowhai to our new Countdown Supermarket in Aotea (Road access)

-The development of a History Trail at the Ngati Toa Domain in Mana (Culture & Heritage)

-The development of a new dog park (Recreation)

-The mini library at Acheron Park (Community & Neighbourly)-this was my proposal

I have learnt so much! I am still learning to be honest. It was really interesting to hear the residents ideas as to what projects would benefit our little village in terms of attracting visitors and supporting our local businesses. To look after a community must be so challenging at times I gathered for the City Council as we have so many villages/surburbs within the city who have got different needs and priorities. They all cost money!

I decided to talk about my idea at a residents meeting earlier this year (2017). I had ideas and illustrations of how I wanted the project to look-see the photo below. I wanted to see if the association could support and back me up with building a “Little Free Library” (as part of the Little Free Library Movement in our Acheron Park in Mana. I was a little apprehensive as I didn’t know how it would be recieved. Surprisingly, it was very well recieved!Pandora Little Free Library Acheron Park Plan 2017

I have never ever written a proposal for a village project to a city council. I don’t even know how to write one. It was only a little project and one that could potentially be built by community volunteers but I still had doubts as to who could build it (I was racing against time preparing to go on a humanitarian mission overseas).

Here’s my one go at writing a proposal to the Porirua City Council:

Project Name: Little Free Library for Acheron Park in Mana
(Take a Book, Return a Book)

Project Scope: Presently, the park has a childrens playground and a couple of community gardens which support the local Porirua Bellyful Charity for first-time mothers in the region. It is proposed that the community and the Residents Association work with Councillor Dale Williams to build a Little Free Library in the park. The Little Free Library will also have a seat built near to it. 

Project: The Little Free Library hopes to inspire the love of reading, build the community and reignite the creativity of children as well as adults by fostering neighbourhood exchanges around Paremata, Mana, Camborne and Plimmerton. Research shows that when books are exchanged regularly, the reading achievements are increased and improved.

Project Objectives: To support the Neighbourly Community purposes/objectives-connecting the people of Paremata and the surrounding suburbs. Hopefully people can celebrate and acknowledge the power of community, kindness and taking action where they live to contribute to other community projects.

Project Resources: This will be voluntary labour and be built by the local volunteers. Funding Requirements: Approximately $2000.00 will be required to help built the Little Free Library.

Project Implementation: The project should be completed in a day with the voluntary labour from the volunteers.

Asset creation and Ongoing maintenance: The Paremata Residents Association will help monitor the library.

Approval required: Advice will be sought from PCC library and Parks Management Areas as to any suggested design standards and placement recommendations. Permission will be sought from PCC Parks division for permission to use a proposed Small Library site at Acheron Park.

Background Information: The growth of mini free libraries around New Zealand have proven successful and locally, the Whitby and Ranui Heights have been very beneficial to the community.

I proceeded to contact my local city councillor Dale Williams (who was practically my neighbour) to tell him about the project. He has been a super human being as he had started up a community garden in the park that is now serving greens to one of our local charities in the city called Bellyful Porirua. He responded so well and positively to the little project-I was so blown away by the touch.

Councillor Williams researched, organised, travelled, observed, planned, paid for and delievered the final product in one weekend! I got very emotional seeing the final product. In the email he sent, he reported:

“The new Acheron Community Book Fridge ‘where the cool books are’ is up and running! Thanks to everyone – Leina’s idea, Russell and Ross’s support, Marion and Trash Palaces generosity, and Peters guidance.  I went and looked at Pukerua Bays free library, and Mr Google for inspiration, and the Book Fridge concept seemed most suitable – water tight, shelving, tidy, robust etc. Trash Palace donated the fridge for free. I poured a concrete base for it to stand on, cleaned it up, and hey presto! 
 I’ve arranged a few kids to paint it up over the next few weeks, and we can put magnets etc on it, maybe a blackboard too. Books have already been donated. Its easy to access, and it has earthquake proof tensioner straps to the pole and fence to secure against tipping over.
 Costs have been minimal – $30 for concrete, $30 for the strapping, $20 for some paints, and a bit of elbow grease, all of which Marion and I are happy to donate to this awesome community. If it works out ok, maybe other streets/communities/suburbs might want to do something similar? 
 Thanks again everyone! Feel free to pop down and check it out.”

book fridge 2I loved the cool book fridge-I was so proud of the work he had done.

In one of our residents meeting recently, I read in the minutes that the residents association was planning to write a letter to the Editor of our City’s Newspaper-The Kapi Mana to thank our Councillor Williams, Marion from Trash Palace and myself for the successful project. What an extra honour to be even considered. In fact, I am so touched by the acknowledgement.

Quietly, it felt really exhilarating being able to contribute to the community in this way too.

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