May 2002, Volume 13, Number 5
Teamwork Wins Over
When a small group of Waikari residents got together and decided they needed to do something to revive community spirits, they had to work hard to ignore the voices of the knockers...
“There were people who said it wouldn’t work -- it had been tried before,” says Gateway to the Hurunui Lakes Promotion Group member Millie Matthews. “There was a lack of self esteem, with people believing that good things like festivals happened somewhere else. We just kept believing in ourselves and working together as a team.”
The result was a stunningly successful festival to officially open the Weka Pass Railway. The festival drew 1800 people and featured the community in local media.
The opening was 120 years late, as the line was never officially opened in 1882. The passenger service later ceased running. The Weka Pass Railway Society was set up to preserve the steam trains used in the area, and now runs regular excursion trips.
The idea of officially launching the railway was developed in conjunction with the railway society. Visitors and locals turned up in period costume, and the day included a re-enactment of the railway opening, bands, children’s entertainment, more than 50 stalls and a banquet dinner and dance.
“The feedback was great. It really brought people together. We started out with nothing, but were convinced that if we ran a quality event people would come. If we can just keep building on this, people will begin to take pride in our community again and things can begin happening,” says Millie.
Community Employment Group fieldworker Piet Vink, who provided support and advice to the event, says he was impressed with the commitment the group showed to making the event work, as well as its overall commitment to revitalising the community. They have put lessons learned from other communities into practice in their own community.
Lyndon Matthews, who is part of the promotion group and who recently completed the Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme, says the festival was a significant achievement in a move towards reviving the community.
The group will soon begin working on its next big project -- encouraging community involvement in establishing a village green.
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