By Claire Farrelly
Tamati from Auckland has a vision for reclaiming the streets in his neighbourhood for his children. He wants to ensure that his children are passed on values of giving and continue the legacy of strong, connected communities.
In a world made increasingly smaller by advances in technology, it is nice to come across people who value strong connections to their families and their communities. Tamati (Ngati Whatua) and his family are one example. He has lived in the same house in Glen Innes, Auckland, his entire life, a rarity in an increasingly transient city. He is in fact the 6th generation of his family to have called the area home. Tamati describes his heritage as being rich in contributing to the community with his mother having established the ‘Glenn Innes Family Centre’ over 36 years ago. This heritage has had a profound effect on his own attitude toward neighbourliness and whanaungatanga.
Tamati hopes that his own children will take the principles of neighbourliness and apply them to all situations they encounter in their daily lives and in doing so that they will honour the legacy those generations before them have passed on; acting as representatives of their neighbourhood, their community, their iwi and their country.
“By instilling these values within my own children, we will bring back a sense of community spirit that embraces manaakitanga (generosity), whakamana (respect), maioha (friendliness), and harikoa (laughter). My children will learn to give and not take, to be contributors not consumers. When we choose to no longer be passive consumers of the world we can then give, give, give. Neighbourhood is the platform from which to learn that.”
Tamati observes that many property owners erect trees and higher fences and in doing so create physical and mental barriers with their neighbours. Such a move, in Tamati’s view, simply reinforces disconnection and isolation. “In many communities, people have learnt how to survive isolated. We need to take down the fences and challenge the value we place on community”. Tamati is proud to say that for most homes on his street the literal lowering of fences and intentional bonding with those next door has enhanced community well-being, an especially important point when you consider the significant social challenges currently faced by his community.
Another important component of this is the recent “retreat from the street”. A term coined by David Engwicht of Australian-based Creative Communities. Tamati explains that many residents in modern communities have “retreated from the street into their back yards and ultimately into their homes”. Suburban streets that were once extensions of the home and consequently a celebration of community, for people of all ages, are now far too often empty of ‘community’. He believes that reversing that retreat builds the social life local neighbourhoods.
Tamati’s vision is to return front yards to being the playgrounds that they once were, to reverse the retreat and reclaim the streets. Tamati understands this will only be achieved via buy-in from his community. Neighbours Day, Tamati believes, provides the ideal opportunity to get his neighbours on board with this. “It gives us a chance to not just ‘talk neighbourhood’ but to ‘do neighbourhood’, to practice whakawhanaungatanga. If we do this our sense of community will be strengthened and we will ensure our children carry on the legacy that has been given to us”.