South Alive initiative draws Aussie interest

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 30/08/2013
Janette Malcolm
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
South Alive co-ordinator Janette Malcolm is going to Australia next week to speak about the success of the South Alive model.

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An Invercargill action group is taking its success across the Ditch to show Australia how it is done.

South Alive co-ordinator Janette Malcolm has been asked to speak in Wollongong, Australia, next week, after she was approached by Bank of Ideas director Peter Kenyon to talk about the group's ongoing success in south Invercargill.

South Alive is a community group that, for the past 16 months, has initiated a raft of projects to improve south Invercargill.

The approach by the Austraians comes just a week after facilitators of a Kaiapoi town group in Canterbury visited Invercargill to copy the South Alive model.

Five facilitators from the Rebuild Kaiapoi group travelled to Invercargill last week to speak with the group's volunteers and the Invercargill City Council.

South Alive deputy chairwoman Robyn Hickman said the invitation to Australia and visit from the Canterbury group was testament to the group's hard work in south Invercargill.

In the past year, the group's volunteers had continued to change the perceptions of south Invercargill and had made a difference, Ms Hickman said.

They had set up numerous action groups, held working bees and put plans in place to make the area a place people were proud of, she said.

A recent survey carried out by South Alive backed up the group's hard work.

Ms Hickman said the group surveyed 200 people about how they felt about south Invercargill last year and did it again this year.

The results were "very pleasing" showing an increase of people being proud of the area from 35 per cent last year to 57 per cent this year.

That perception change was thanks to the continuing support and funding from local businesses, the Invercargill City Council and the hard work of volunteers, Ms Hickman said.

Mrs Malcolm, who has been the driving force behind the group and its projects, had also been asked to speak to several of the councils near Wollongong about the key to its engagement with the community.

The group had achieved so much in 16 months and to be able to pass on what they had learnt, both the triumphs and failures, was an honour, she said.

South Alive has been running for only 16 months, but Ms Malcolm was unable to list all the changes in the area on one hand.

By far the biggest project was the garden and basketball court behind the South City Mall, she said.

The days of clearing, digging and planting had been a huge logistical task but the community had been supportive and the project had engaged community groups, schools and even kindergartens.

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That is the success other towns are looking to harness, she said.

It was pleasing that others wanted to copy that model, but more pleasing that it had worked so well, she said.

- The Southland Times

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