Peter Kageya­ma loves cities, and peo­ple. And he knows how to get the best out of peo­ple to make cities great. He is the author of For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between Peo­ple and Their Places and the fol­low up, Love Where You Live: Cre­at­ing Emo­tion­al­ly Engag­ing Places. Peter is invit­ed to talk to local gov­ern­ments all over the world, because he real­ly, real­ly knows his stuff. And he cares.

Love where you live, Peter KageyamaHow did you get into your role help­ing cities?

About ten years ago I was speak­ing with cities on issues around tal­ent attrac­tion and reten­tion. I had been work­ing with Charles Landry, the Eng­lish author of The Cre­ative City and he asked me what I want­ed to say about all of this. I realised that a recur­ring thread in all the cities I was vis­it­ing was a core group of com­mit­ted cit­i­zens who were doing amaz­ing things for their com­mu­ni­ties, not because they were paid to, but because they loved their city. I felt that no one was telling their sto­ry and the incred­i­bly impor­tant role that they played in mak­ing great places. The idea of the first book came from there and I have been for­tu­nate enough to be spread­ing that mes­sage all over Amer­i­ca and around the world.

What sim­i­lar­i­ties do you see between St Peters­burg in Flori­da, where you live, and Tau­ran­ga?

We are both water­front cities and the water is a defin­ing part of our respec­tive iden­ti­ties. We are both tourist des­ti­na­tions and known for great weath­er. But we have one sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence – Mount Maun­ganui. Flori­da is a big, flat sand bar. We don’t have the topog­ra­phy and the cor­re­spond­ing great views that you have.

St Peters­burg, Flori­da, pho­to­source — suncoastepc.org

What did you do in Tau­ran­ga when you were last here?

I had been invit­ed by Tracey Rud­duck-Gud­sell who was then with Cre­ative Tau­ran­ga to come and speak with the cre­ative com­mu­ni­ty in Tau­ran­ga as well as with coun­cil and local busi­ness lead­ers about the val­ue of emo­tion­al engage­ment with our city. We also did a half-day com­mu­ni­ty work­shop, For the Love of Tau­ran­ga, that brought over 100 cit­i­zens to explore how they could become more involved com­mu­ni­ty-builders.

From this work­shop came all sorts of ideas, such as the Piano Project, sta­tioned at The Incu­ba­tor, run by Simone Ander­son.

Katikati, New Zealand, Bay of Plenty, Peter Kageyama
Peter in Katikati

Can you tell us about some of the ideas you have imple­ment­ed which have seen cities trans­formed?

I share sto­ries and hope­ful­ly plant seed that cities then take and make their own. A good exam­ple comes from a small town in Mass­a­chu­setts, which has an annu­al din­ner on the bridge that cross­es at the cen­tre of town. It is a won­der­ful way to see and appre­ci­ate your city in a dif­fer­ent way. I have shared that idea and oth­ers have tak­en it and done ver­sions of it: din­ner on a dam, din­ner on a rooftop, or even din­ner down the main street of their down­town.

In my work­shops I share lots of inex­pen­sive exam­ples and high­light the impact that a small, micro-grant can have in a com­mu­ni­ty. A $500 grant in the hands of cre­ative peo­ple can go a long way and sev­er­al com­mu­ni­ties have ini­ti­at­ed some ver­sion of a micro-grant pro­gram­me that gets mon­ey into the hands of every­day cit­i­zens and not just for­mal organ­i­sa­tions.

We have quite a bit of dis­cus­sion going on in Tau­ran­ga at the moment about what to do with our CBD; the water­front, which has been a carpark, is now a children’s play­ground, and also has a train track run­ning the length of it, ser­vic­ing our port. The cafés and restau­rants are set rea­son­ably far back on the oth­er side of a road. There are dif­fer­ent groups who have start­ed to make plans for the city, which is great, but not every­one seems to be mov­ing in the same direc­tion. Can you give us some advice?

Like many cities, Tau­ran­ga indus­tri­alised its water­front which is why you have the train tracks right down there next to the roads, effec­tive­ly block­ing easy access to the water. The play­ground I think is a good step for­ward. I also read about the Lumi­nar­i­um that was there in 2015. It looked fab­u­lous and hope­ful­ly cre­at­ed a buzz around town.

What a project like that does is show us the pos­si­bil­i­ties of some­thing dif­fer­ent. It feels like the CBD and Tau­ran­ga as a whole need to psy­chi­cal­ly recon­nect with the water­front. Events like the Lumi­nar­i­um and fea­tures like a play­ground do just that – give us a rea­son to engage the water­front. Try some tem­po­rary exper­i­ments. We need more of those, even sim­ple one-offs that get peo­ple into think­ing about the water­front as a place where inter­est­ing and dif­fer­ent things could hap­pen.

How can we start mak­ing a change?

Most peo­ple believe that city build­ing is all big stuff: roads, bridges and schools for instance. They say ‘I can’t do any of that,’ so they wait for the offi­cial folk to make the city bet­ter for them. This puts all the bur­den on gov­ern­ment. But small things like com­mu­ni­ty gar­dens, pop-up dog parks and neigh­bour­hood fes­ti­vals are city-mak­ing and they have val­ue. There is not a par­i­ty of pow­er in this city/citizen rela­tion­ship but there has to be a par­i­ty of car­ing.

The Piano Project

This was the con­cept of a stu­dent who was on exchange in New Zealand and had attend­ed Peter’s sem­i­nar. She had already worked with me on the large mural in Tau­riko. The idea was to have bright­ly paint­ed pianos placed around the city, for any­one to play. Al fres­co, impromp­tu music makes every­one hap­py and fills the area with life and soul.

Our ini­tial aim was to paint three pianos over three days, with about 18 artists. We even­tu­al­ly went on to do 11 with a steam­punk one still in pro­gress. All the pianos were donat­ed and the project was not fund­ed in any way, just a lot of artists and some free test pots from Resene.

When the word got out we were approached by organ­i­sa­tions such as Katch Katikati, Beth­le­hem and Greer­ton town cen­tres, The Pilot Bay board­walk ini­tia­tive, Main­street TGA and Cre­ative Tau­ran­ga for pianos in their loca­tions. Most are still in use today near­ly three years lat­er.”

Simone Ander­son from The Incu­ba­tor