An artist’s impression of giant spray cans at a skatepark in the east of Masterton. IMAGE/SUPPLIED

Pam Graham
pam.graham@ago.co.nz

Giant concrete pillars shaped like spray cans painted in bold modern art at a skatepark in McJorrow Park is one of the head-turning ideas students from Massey University have come up with for the east of Masterton.

Fourteen students in their fourth and final year of the Bachelor of Resource and Environmental Planning degree essentially went through the same processes planning consultants would go through in their project.

Known as the Eastside or Cameron Block the area has a lot of social housing and a population of about 3500, about a third of which are from the Rangitane and Ngati Kahungunu iwis.

The class of 14 students have presented a final report for revamped or new buildings, walkways, community gardens, a pedestrian underpass, Maori art for urban settings and traffic solutions.

“We didn’t see ourselves as coming to fix up a dodgy area, we’re coming to build on what they already have and to invite wider Masterton to their community,” said Alicia Todd, one of the students.

One of the big ideas is a Maori University that would leverage off the three schools in the area, bringing in students from outside as well as providing opportunities for adult education.

It is a dream of Hohepa Campbell, the principal of Eastside’s Te Kura Kaupapa Maori. He envisages an education hub for all ages that could also serve the tertiary education needs of the wider region.

The students worked in three groups on three separate projects. They held workshops with everyone from teens to school principals, police, community leaders, older residents and business owners.

Four of the students, Phoebe Watson, Hannah Van Haren-Giles, Alicia Todd and Josh Knowles worked on ideas for McJorrow Park, which was regarded as a lovely green space but lacking in activities for teens to people in their early 20s.

“The challenge was to find stuff in between a kids’ playground and walkways for the elderly,” said Watson.

The design for landmark spray can sculptures at a skatepark was the result of a process where the students took on conflicting ideas and tried to find solutions that would work.

“We felt these spaces would encourage community graffiti as a positive thing – in a way that’s interpreted more as art than graffiti,” Watson said.

Initially, the idea of a skatepark with graffiti columns was not palatable to some of the older people who saw it as attracting bad behaviour, “whereas we saw it as a way of concentrating that behaviour so that they are not tagging letterboxes”, Knowles said.

The students worked with Masterton District Council, Connecting Communities Wairarapa and Masterton Eastside Community Group.

Lecturer, Associate Professor Imran Muhammad said their goal was for ideas to be community-led.

Mayor Lyn Patterson said there were some great ideas in the concept plans.

“It was a really great opportunity to engage and think about what they would like their community to look like,” she said.

From a council perspective it was up to the Eastside working group and the community to look at opportunities from the work.

The students said the project gave them valuable insights and experience.

Many of them are now heading to jobs in planning consultancies.

Aaron Bacher, community development adviser for the council, said there were huge benefits from the project.

“The students get an opportunity to apply their creativity and abstract skills to a real project. The community gets fresh ideas, an outside perspective, and design thinking applied to the place they love and care about.”