In January 2020 we were able to start up a community centre in the Herald Building, an old newspaper office and printery built in 1903 on the main street in Kohukohu.
The purpose of the centre is to foster community resilience, strength. The concept was a central part of the revised Kohukohu Community Plan, published in 2019, worked on by a local group, and supported by the FNDC Community Development Co-ordinator, Ken Ross.
The centre group decided food security and timebanking were the first issues to begin with. These are both modern words to describe historic community activities of our tupuna - all food was produced locally, and people shared help and skills locally. No supermarkets, advertising, fast cars and sealed roads back then.
In March 2020 covid locked us all down. We re-opened in June when NZ went to Level 2. Many in the initial group had moved on, both overseas or into other activities.
We began with 2 open days a week - one for repairing, re-using, recycling, repurposing, Fixit Tuesdays. This also included NZ Sign Language classes, and Yoga-in-a-chair. The other is Thursday Food Days. People come to bring surplus garden produce, or wild blackberries, mushrooms, fruit. They bring eggs, preserves, baking, honey, rongoa, seeds, seedlings, young trees. They help themselves to whatever they need. Most put a contribution into the Koha Jar. Many stay for much of the day to enjoy the social interaction. We are beginning lunchtime workshops on varied aspects of food growing and other issues related to resilience. This is also the main Timebank information day.
It was challenging at first, with only myself left from the original group, and able to be there consistently. But wonderful people began coming on board and sharing the considerable effort, patience and work needed to keep this movement growing. Many folks dropped food off, others have put themselves forward to be on the organising group and they share the work.
This is where I wish to formally thank the Tai Tokerau Timebank for sending us Graeme Kettle. Graeme arrived at the perfect time to help create momentum, saw what needed to be done and started doing it. He is also a gardener, and has brought very generous quantities of food to add to the table most weeks. Graeme shares our understanding of 'community' and the direction we are heading towards.
Since we opened, I have found it sometimes a knife edge to negotiate between the newer people who have bought homes here after a lifetime in cities, and no awareness or experience of those who grew up here, who whakapapa to this district, both Maori and the older pakeha families. It has been so important to keep the doors open in a way that the place is comfortable for everyone. No dominant faction.
This is where Graeme is gold. He very quietly encourages shy folks, regardless of age, culture, background. He listens to people with patience, allows them all the time they need to find their own solutions, eg. what they may have to offer the community via timebanking.
Apart from his calm kindly quiet ways, I think that one reason he has been able to explain timebanking and sign up so many new people, may be that coming in from the outside he is NOT related or married or neighbours or past history to anyone. So he can be truly objective. And they see someone new, non-threatening, not talking over the top of them, and trustworthy. How rare is that?!! I suspect this has proven a major factor.
Timebanking is not a thing on it's own. It is a language and practice that both describes and enacts the essence of Community.
By showing people what TTT is about, Graeme has opened the door for folk to understand what community resilience is about. I see people get a whole new grasp of what we are reaching out to grow across this district. They begin to take part more confidently in the food-sharing and other activities, offer to help, and come on board.
We now have a healthy organising group - the Herald Building Group. I am very glad that Graeme is a vital part of this. Now that the projects we have already started are working well, we are about to enter the next phase:
a) Lunchtime workshops/presentations on Thursdays (Graeme has been helpful on this idea) with raised beds outside the building for the gardening/soil health/compost workshops.
b). The beginning of a food forest on land we have been offered by St Mary's Church in Kohukohu.
We have applied to Kai Ora Fund/Mahitahi Hauora for the means to do this, to buy and install the extra water storage necessary, buy the first trial run of trees to plant this winter, buy timber and growing medium to build the garden beds and compost bin by the Herald Building, & equipment for workshop presentations.
Central to achieving and maintaining these - Stage 2 and Stage 3 - is Timebank. All our labour will be timebank working bees or individual efforts. All this will be out in the public eye. It will bring in others who want to help, who are also likely to join TTT, receive credits and discover other skills they have to offer.
eg. An Auckland person who has a cottage in Kohukohu - currently for weekend and holiday use, but to live in later, overlooks the proposed food forest. She has decided to contact others with connections to this district to donate trees for the Food Forest. They could have their name on a tag on their tree, be involved in the planting and maintenance if desired. Locals will be invited to do the same. But again, this will increase timebank activities with maintenance - mowing/mulching/watering etc.
Involvement, belonging, achievement. This all weaves community.
So I suspect that TTT activity in this district is about to take off in a major way! And we have Graeme to thank for this - he has been preparing the 'labour force' for months now, and will co-ordinate the next stages now we are almost ready for action.
So THANKYOU Tai Tokerau Timebank - we couldn't have a better co-ordinator!
Nga mihi nui,