“What’s not to love?” Tony asks as he admires the green outlook of the nearby park. “I feel blessed to be here. My home, the park, being surrounded by nature – it’s bliss,” he says.

It’s the first Monday of the month, which means Tony is taking a short stroll from his home to the onsite community room for a regular committee meeting.

Tony is one of five Kāinga Ora customers, who put their hand up to help manage and run what is Northland’s first community room at a Kāinga Ora development.

Gifted the name ‘Taparoto’ by local hapu, the room is used for everything from baby showers, to birthday parties, community meetings and after school care.

“If you’d have told me a year ago, I’d be sitting here, looking out to this park and being a member of this committee, I wouldn’t have believed it,” he says.

Tony and the other committee members hold practical responsibilities for the room such as scheduling bookings, checking the room is left clean and tidy, restocking essentials, and ensuring keys are returned. They have also established a set of practical rules for use of the room, which everyone follows and respects.

In a show of true community spirit, Tony and his fellow committee members have also run a successful community-wide ‘meet your neighbours’ day. The event, which was loved by all who attended, included a bouncy castle, face painting, a bbq and games enjoyed by the kids and parents alike. 

“Having Taparoto and events like the neighbour’s day, means we’ve gotten to know each other really well. Before I just had neighbours, now, for the first time I feel like I’m part of a community,” says Tony.

“Just knowing each other’s names, talking to your neighbours, having the kids scooter past and say hi or stop to pat Keeber, it all builds trust,” he says.

Prior to becoming a Kāinga Ora customer, Tony and Keeber were stuck in unsuitable accommodation, which was starting to have serious health impacts.

“I didn’t realise how bad it was at first, but I just started feeling worse and worse. Physically and mentally - everything just started going downhill. I couldn’t think, I was hardly living.”

But hope came in the form of a phone call. A call from Kāinga Ora, offering Tony a warm, dry, brand-new home.

“A home is everything, trust me. It can change everything,” he says.

“My health started improving from the day I moved in and now I can think clearly again. I have the motivation to be part of each day.”

Zephyr Marshall, Northland’s Community Development Manager at Kāinga Ora, has been part of Taparoto since its inception and still attends every committee meeting in a support role.

The committee will often look to her for guidance which she is happy to give, but she’s also quick to remind them that community room decisions are theirs to make.

“From meeting to meeting I see their confidence grow. Being part of a committee is a real commitment and it’s been a pleasure to see their hard work turn into successful events that empower and improve this community,” she says.

“For me the success of the neighbour’s day demonstrated how a seemingly simple room, can be so much more. It can provide room to reflect, grow and come together.”

As this month’s committee meeting wraps up, Tony reflects on being in his home for close to a year.

“Living here and having access to Taparoto and the beautiful park where I walk Keeber - I feel cared for, and that has given me a sense of peace,” he says.

“For me, the honeymoon phase is over, and that’s a real good thing. Now I can do what I wanted to do all along, start living.”  

Media Contact

Page updated: 6 June 2024