April 23, 2020

Family-friendly streets during COVID-19

Whilst acknowledging the social and emotional toll of the pandemic, bubbles across West Auckland are taking the opportunity to get outside, get active, connect with one another and their local environment.  

The residents (staying firmly in their bubbles) of Hueglow Rise, West Harbour, banded together to bring the children an Easter egg hunt, incorporating Ministry of Health physical distancing guidelines. Street resident, Mark Ikimouga, explains. 

“Knowing this Easter would feel different for the children of our street, we wanted to bring them a taste of what Easter would normally feel like whilst still keeping in our bubbles. So we were already planning our Great Easter Egg Hunt even before Jacinda suggested it!”  

The Hueglow Rise Easter egg hunt was a resounding success, seeing families walking up and down the street to count the Easter egg drawings around the street.  

Residents had earlier been brought together through a play streets initiative facilitated by Healthy Families Waitākere Lead Systems Innovator, Catherine Powell. The group has been exploring what a street which supported play could look like. Catherine explains. 

“Over the past six months residents of Hueglow Rise have organised several play street events – planting sunflowers together, a street games afternoon and BBQ, alongside setting up a Facebook page to share play activities for both the children and adults. Through this initiative we gathered insights to understand what would encourage play streets, identifying themes such as safety, knowing your neighbours and local leadership as crucial factors.” 

The residents have taken up the charge and between them they are organising events, get-togethers and in turn, building a sense of community for the street. This community has gone from strength to strength, building a strong support network for residents during alert level 4.  

Beyond Hueglow Rise, communities across the West Auckland are getting outdoors, in part due to the reduced safety concerns. Catherine explains.   

“During alert level four we’re seeing fewer cars which reduces parental concern around children playing on the street. The same factor relates to increases in cycling and walking. We’re seeing people taking the opportunity to get outside and potentially discover their neighbourhood for the first time.” 

The current environment under alert level four4 has led to a great opportunity for communities to show leadership and develop physical activities that are relevant for them right now. Healthy Families Waitākere is currently gathering insights from community to understand how these positive changes might continue beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.