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Katikati makes it look like child's play

Dr Hans Maurer, IMCA and University of Action Learning Partner in New Zealand, acted as visitor turned champion for the Baron and Lady of Prestoungrange's third visit to amuralcity in nine days. This time the destination was Katikati on the North Island some 160 kilometres south east of Auckland. The welcome was proud and the tale once again was of civic and economic regeneration achieved over nearly 20 years.

Hans' own particular interest is in cool agricultural produce, so he was able to share the full story of Katikati's rise and decline as the Kiwi fruit capital of the nation on the drive there. Once arrived the context was filled in by the team leaders today. As decline had deepened a group of local citizens including June Carlton and Lesley Board became aware of the Chemainus initiatives but they set about doing it their own way. Yet the outcomes are clearly congruent as can be seen at the Katikati WebSite.

Outstanding artwork adorns a multitude of walls as one drives along the main strip. Particularly noticeable is the play area close by the Library and Murals Information Centre. Created entirely by the children there are pathway mosaics of rare birds and animals, and totems bearing inscriptions in the many original languages of the town's families.

One great triumph at Katikati has been the way in which the Maori population has joined in the process of telling its own history of the area. Such first nation involvement is something which has largely eluded both Chemainus and 29 Palms thus far.

A recent recruit to the core team at Katikati is Erik Becker, a Dutch New Zealander committed to tourism in the area. His compliments to the founders of the city's Open Air Art initiative, are unequivocal. As a model for creating a unique identity for a city he says it has exceeded all reasonable expectations.

The overwhelming message from the visit once again was that broadscale involvement of community members is vital for success and sustainabilty. And second, that it is history that creates the curiosity and fascination and involvement. Mural Art is the medium not the end in itself.

Published Date: March 28th 2001

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