HCM Issue 4 2021

Page 67


The organisation’s big hairy audacious goal is for 75% of people in the region to meet the national physical activity guidelines Matthew Cooper, Sport Waikato

guidelines was a by product of fun? Would making the city more playful support people to play more? “These questions provided a change in mindset, which enabled staff to focus on play for everyone and to reframe council assets such as walkways, street trees, open spaces, gullies, sports parks, aquatic facilities, footpaths and streets as play infrastructure where people can engage in physical movement and fun.” Hamilton council manages a range of infrastructure, including more than 1100 hectares of open space, two aquatic facilities and more than 1000k of off-road cycle and walkways, suburban streets and footpaths, which will be used to deliver new playful environments.

says Sport Waikato CEO, Matthew Cooper. “The organisation’s big hairy audacious goal is for 75 per cent of people in the region to meet the national physical activity guidelines.” One of the main challenges is behaviour change within the organisation and also to reimagine spaces which have not traditionally contributed towards play outcomes, such as the streets. “Streets used to be places to play and for social connection but presently the focus on streets is almost purely as a network for moving cars,” says Vervoort. “We’d like to see a return of suburban streets to being the realm of children and grown-ups engaging in play.”

Reimagining the city

Reclaim the streets Implementation is happening primarily through the council’s long-term plan process, which is developed every three years, with a 10-year horizon, and since the strategy was adopted, in 2019, it has informed a number of potential projects and programmes. “Initiatives under the Play Strategy will create more opportunities for Hamiltonians to be active in spontaneous and informal ways and help to support similar work occurring in councils across the region and the rest of the country,” PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK/EMAGNETIC

The focus on play prompts people to reconnect with their childhoods

According to Vervoort, the strategy has already captured the hearts and minds of the public, as well as council staff responsible for developing parks and open spaces: “The focus on play seems to prompt people to connect with their childhoods and remember how they played, which enables innovative thinking about how we might reimagine Hamilton city.” Going forward, Cooper believes tackling the environment of cities will be vital in order to increase activity and deal with a variety of health challenges. “Cities can either build-in inactivity, through car-based development and a lack of walking and cycling infrastructure, or make it easy to be active every day, which we know has a range of physical, social, emotional and mental benefits,” he says. “The built form in a city has a very real impact on our bodies. Decisions councils make around parks, open spaces and alternative transport options will contribute to people’s choices about walking, biking or driving a car. Connecting walkways and cycleways and open spaces to key places of employment, education and recreation makes a real difference to the health of a community.” ● ©Cybertrek 2021 Issue 4 2021