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Community spaces guru takes a CBD walkabout

With his tinted spectacles, unruly greying hair and stovepipe trousers, David Engwicht could just about have been mistaken for Sam Hunt giving some impromptu poetry readings.

Engwicht took about 35 locals and a visiting television crew on a walkabout this week to talk about how downtown Raglan could be revitalised.

The “community spaces” guru visited town on Tuesday at the invitation of the Raglan Community Board, and after a brief but colourful presentation in the town hall supper room of his philosophies – which he described as “like home-making but in the public realm” – he led his audience around town pointing out possibilities for low-budget community-led projects.

“I don’t do plans, I make spaces,” he told locals. “Give me the cost of one [town planning] report and I’ll turn your town around.”

Mr Engwicht is described as one of the world’s most innovative thinkers on place making, citizen engagement and creative problem solving. He’s best known in New Zealand for having inspired the Paihia community to redesign a town public space and to rebuild the public toilets, which like the Hundertwasser toilets in nearby Kawakawa have now become a big tourist attraction.

Waikato District Council has signed up to a place making programme he developed while working with the Palmerston North community – one which involves DIY kits for professionals, retailers and residents – and has already implemented the programme in Ngaruawahia.


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