Skip to Content

Otangarei Basketball Court Development

Otangarei Basketball Court Development

07 July 2020

Using a locally-led approach to better connect with targeted communities in Otangarei - Northland.

Using a locally-led approach to better connect with targeted communities, Sport Northland began supporting a community project in Otangarei, in northern Whangarei.

The result was assisting with the co-design of a basketball court development – a project that forms part of a much larger initiative, Te Kāinga Ora ō Otangarei, and focuses on tamariki and rangatahi aged 5-12 years old.

The locally-led approach allowed Sport Northland to both connect with local partners as well as the community and gain a greater understanding of the aspirations, different roles and strengths of those involved to identify where the organisation could best assist.

Key success factors of the Te Kāinga Ora ō Otangarei basketball court project include:

  • Community involvement in identifying initiatives and decision-making
  • Working in partnership with those already embedded within the community.

In December 2018, the basketball court and rejuvenation of the surrounding area was officially opened. Since the opening, there has been ongoing, regular use of the court by tamariki, rangatahi and their whānau.

More importantly, a number of other positive changes have been noted, including empowering rangatahi, new relationships and improved communication amongst partners within the Otangarei community, and mechanisms in place to empower ongoing community leadership.


A mapping exercise helped Sport Northland to prioritise which geographical communities to support by identifying communities throughout Northland high (comparatively) in the following:

  • Deprivation
  • Overall population (including projections)
  • Māori (% of population, including projections)
  • Young people (% of population, including projections)

Other factors taken into account included environmental/infrastructure within each community, readiness of the targeted community to run with this new ‘system’ approach, and the existing level of Sport Northland involvement in the particular community.

The Otangarei suburb, situated in northern Whangarei, was identified as a possible community. Otangarei has the largest Māori population in Whangarei (72 percent of population are Māori), a high socio-economic deprivation (NZDep2013 decile 10) and a high youth population (27 percent are aged between 5-19 years old).

A number of organisations and agencies had also expressed a willingness to work together on projects with the community. Sport Northland consulted with a wide range of sectors working with the Otangarei community, including social agencies and health and education providers. They also met with local community organisations and other sports and recreational services. Conversations identified a primary concern for the safety and wellbeing of whānau and tamariki in the community. Also raised were the possibility of more activities and local events to encourage tamariki to be more active, and help with greater community engagement and collaboration.

The Te Kāinga Ora ō Otangarei initiative was already operating within the Otangarei community. Guided by its vision of “consistent work towards a collective plan, acknowledging shared aspirations across groups in Otangarei and the wider community”, the initiative is led by the Te Hau Āwhiowhio ō Otangarei Trust and includes a core group spanning central government agencies, local government, NGOs, local trusts as well as businesses of strategic partners. A key focus for Te Kāinga Ora ō Otangarei is the overall redevelopment of Otangarei’s central reserve.

Given Sport Northland’s existing work and interest in the Otangarei community they were invited to become a part of this initiative.


Identifying community aspirations

Sport Northland quickly realised that Te Kāinga Ora ō Otangarei was largely an agency-led initiative, with little representation from key community groups such as Te Puawaitanga Marae Otangarei and the Otangarei Neighbourhood Safety Panel (ONSP). Taking a community-led approach, Sport Northland wanted to provide opportunities for these groups, and individual community members to voice their opinions and gather a snapshot of the community’s aspirations. 

In 2017, Sport Northland ran a three-day street consultation stall in Otangarei’s main street. The consultation involved face to face conversations with passers-by and paper surveys.

"We set up outside the shops and asked two questions that get people to give as much information as they can without having to think too hard about it. What do you love about Otangarei? And what do you think can be done to make Otangarei even better?"
Ryan Maraki, Sport Northland Community Connector

Through this work, Sport Northland learned the community wanted safe play options for tamariki and rangatahi. The consistent themes expressed by the community, particularly youth, were to build a playground and redevelop the basketball court located on the Otangarei Central Reserve.

Given the playground build was already underway, Sport Northland decided to support the community to redevelop the basketball court, partnering with Northland DHB. The project brief was presented to the Te Kāinga ō Otangarei project steering group and a design process was implemented.

Co-designing with local rangatahi

Wanting to develop a project design that appealed to the youth of Otangarei, Sport Northland engaged ĀKAU, a local design and architectural group with a proven track record of engaging with youth when designing community facilities. ĀKAU provided in-kind support to facilitate two co-design workshops with local rangatahi to discuss how they saw the redesign of the basketball court.

Workshop 1 – Design Brief

Held at the courts in Otangarei, this workshop talked with community and local tamariki and rangatahi to identify their hopes and aspirations for the site. From this session a scope for the project was defined.

"You could paint this, it’d be mean. And you could tie it together with a rainbow to show happiness."
Local youth

Workshop 2 – Concept Design

Te Puawaitanga Marae Otangarei hosted this workshop and assisted the group to connect with community partners and rangatahi. In this collaborative session, ĀKAU helped the Otangarei community get creative when developing the concept designs for the site. Ideas included development of the basketball court, shade and seating areas, rubbish solutions and a memorial space to a much-loved local educator, Matua Alex Henare. From this workshop ĀKAU translated these concepts into a design proposal.

Feedback was sought from those involved in the consultation workshops, the wider community and key partner organisations. A draft of the planned design was circulated to interested community members, and a model of the finished courts was built and displayed outside the Otangarei shops and during the local Otangarei Matariki festival.

Putting the plan in action

Recognising the impact this project could have on the Otangarei community, Northland DHB and Whangarei District Council provided funding for the redevelopment of the basketball court, along with the Ministry of Social Development, Te Puni Korkiri, Mahitahi Houora and Housing New Zealand.

Execution of the plans began in September 2018, including the coordination of some community working bees to help engage the community. Some local residents helped with the re-cladding of the City Rugby Club wall, and following a community hui, some other residents helped finish the mural on one of the walls. Local youth were also involved through various workshops.

Thanks to the team’s relationship with the council, local professional contractors were employed to do the main body of work. This local engagement also helped with sponsorship opportunities.

In December 2018, the majority of the basketball court build was complete (remaining work was completed by May 2019). Despite poor weather, the opening event attracted about 70 residents who enjoyed access to the court, food stalls, a bouncy castle and other activities. A three-on-three basketball tournament was also run with all age-groups encouraged to participate. It is hoped this tournament will become an annual event.

Te Hau Āwhiowhio ō Otangarei Trust staff member Kepa Earles said that the opening of the court was a fresh start, and that this event felt like a rainbow after the storm for Otangarei residents.

"There's no raruraru, fighting or aggression. It's all good and everyone's happy so it's a big thing for this community to experience. If this event becomes something regular, it might be another reason why people can take some pride in the court."
Kepa Earles

Supporting the community to take the lead

To continue the forward momentum of the project, Sport Northland wanted to identify and build leadership capacity in the community.

They contracted respected local resident and experienced event coordinator, Katrina Tepania, as the project’s local coordinator. Liaising with the Sport Northland Whangarei Community Connector, Katrina worked alongside the Otangarei community to help locals coordinate plans and communicate a collective voice with agencies and key organisations. Her appointment allowed Sport Northland to step back, and let the community lead the project moving forward.

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to mahi with you in our local community, and for giving me the opportunity to work in partnership with Sport Northland.”
Katrina Tepania



Ongoing community involvement

Sport Northland worked directly with the community throughout this initiative to ensure their concerns and aspirations were understood and reflected in its design. The idea to redevelop the basketball court came from the community and an iterative process was used to ensure the voice of the community is continually represented in the design.

Community partners were very receptive to Sport Northland’s co-design approach in bringing the community closer to decision-making, and their ability to connect the community with experienced contractors. Appointment of the community coordinator further supported ways for the community to share their views and take the lead in the future.

"I compliment Sport Northland for being focused on delivering the youth vision. A great part of this project is a contractor [ĀKAU] who has good experience working with youth on co-designed projects."
Community Partner

Working in partnership with those already embedded within the community

Rather than starting a project from scratch, Sport Northland built new relationships with and between organisations already engaged with the Otangarei community. This enabled them to better understand the community and build trust to leverage resources effectively.

For example, awareness and engagement of the local community to attend workshops was largely supported by local people and organisations such as Te Puawaitanga Marae Otangarei.

Regular communication of progress

Historically, there were occasions when the Otangarei community was promised action by agencies, which were not delivered – resulting in a lack of trust. Some community partners were concerned about what message this would send if the initiative stalled or was not completed.

Aware of these concerns, Sport Northland worked hard on their communication strategy to make sure the community was kept up to date and could voice any concerns. Regular updates on the initiative were communicated via newsletters, community social media pages and hui.

Community partners also reported an increased presence of Sport Northland teams in the area and say their communication with Sport Northland has improved through this shared project.


Sport Northland’s involvement as part of Te Kāinga Ora ō Otangarei and the co-designed approach with Otangarei rangatahi and community partners saw the opportunity for the development of this unique basketball court.

The impact created by using a locally-led approach has created positive flow-on effects for the community. The outcome was far greater than the initial project – to fix the old basketball court. Instead, thanks to active community engagement via ĀKAU, community aspirations and inspirations were identified for the space as a whole, so the project grew.

“Overall, the court created community energy and brought forward the idea of the mural, which is now a community centrepiece. We think it’s notable that the wall remained white without any major tagging for nearly 12 months while waiting to be painted."
Anna Markwick, Sport Northland Active Communities Manager

So, while the court had an impact on the community via participation, the court project had an impact on the overall central space as well. Use of the court and surrounding area by Otangarei residents has increased since the project’s completion and a second hoop was installed in 2019.

“Prior to the project the courts weren't used for basketball as there was no hoop, a lot of broken glass and weeds growing up through cracks. It was seen as more of a hangout area. Now it's a usable community space for everyone and has enhanced the village green.”
Anna Markwick

New relationships, improved communication among partners and working together in a coordinated approach are more great outcomes of this initiative. Even more significant however, are the wider positive changes that have resulted with this engagement of the local community, including empowering rangatahi.

Sign up to receive our Kaupapa Māori newsletter 

Kūkū te Kererū is your six-weekly dose of our latest kaupapa Māori news, events and stories from Sport NZ Ihi Aotearoa and across the play, active recreation and sport sector. We’ll cover updates from our work, share what’s happening in the sector plus some interesting and inspiring stories that you’ll just have to sign up to see! 

Subscribe to our Sport NZ Ihi Aotearoa newsletters here 

If you require an accessible version of any content on the site please contact us and we will be happy to assist.

Get Active
Find a sport or recreation activity
Browse Directory
Sport NZ
Who we are and what we do
Information on funding
Stay updated
Me whakahoutia

Sign up to our regular newsletters that connect Sport NZ to all those involved in the play, active recreation and sport sector.

burger close icon

Stay updated

Me whakahoutia

Keep up-to-date with news, events, and initiatives across the play, active recreation and sport sector.
No thanks