Community networks unite

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Securing the future . . . Working on ways to secure ongoing funding and support for The Valley Project and other place-based community networks are (from left) volunteer receptionist Rorie White, community development co-ordinator Anna Parker, and deputy chairman Dr Rob Thomson. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

Grassroots community networks across Dunedin are forming a coalition as government funding runs out.

The move is being driven by the Greater Green Island Community Network and The Valley Project in Northeast Valley, which have both benefited from Department of Internal Affairs funding.

The Valley Project received about $1.5million over five years from the department and other sources, under a national pilot scheme, and has been operating on residual funding since June 2016.

The Green Island network has received $80,000 in annual DIA funding under a three-year contract, which ended in July.

The “place-based” community network coalition includes the Green Island and North East Valley groups, along with Corstorphine Community Hub, Caversham Community Group, Brockville community project, Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust and City Rise Up groups.

Funding status varies among the other placed-based community groups, but their aims are similar – developing community cohesion and “turning streets into neighbourhoods”.

Green Island community worker Amanda Reid said much of the group’s work related to the Dunedin City Council, and this was the same for the other community networks.

“So, at this time of change, it seemed sensible to liaise with the DCC as one entity instead of separately,” Mrs Reid said.

The Valley Project deputy chairman Dr Rob Thomson agreed, saying the DCC were “great partners”.

“We appreciate that relationship, but we feel we can do it even better,” he said.

While the groups were working on schemes to become financially independent, they also planned to apply for funding from the DCC and local trusts.

The Valley Project community development co-ordinator Anna Parker said the large amount of “exciting grassroots activity” happening around Dunedin was important for the health of the city.

“So we are aiming to create a sustainable partnership model with the DCC,” Ms Parker said.

Green Island community worker Leanne Stenhouse believed there was great value in the work of community networks, both for local communities and the wider city.

“Our work here in Green Island has gained the trust of the community, who can see we are getting things done,” Ms Stenhouse said.

“We want to celebrate that and find effective ways to continue.”

The coalition of networks was working with the DCC with the aim of being included in the long-term planning process.

‘We believe the DCC can see the value in place-based community groups, and we feel that the relationship can grow even stronger.”

In a statement, DCC senior community adviser Paul Coffey said as part of this year’s annual plan process, the council asked staff to develop a report on ways the DCC could support place-based groups.

This work was under way and a report would be considered by the council as part of the long-term plan, he said.