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'Dead-end street' comes to life

5:00AM Wednesday August 06, 2008 By Simon Collins

Shirley Tuisamoa, Halamehi Lousi-Loholoho and Charlotte Esser shop collectively at a local food market. Photo / Greg Bowker

Shirley Tuisamoa, Halamehi Lousi-Loholoho and Charlotte Esser shop collectively at a local food market. Photo / Greg Bowker

Mothers in the Auckland cul-de-sac that National leader John Key labelled a "dead-end street" have formed a food co-op to make their meagre budgets stretch further.

The four mothers in McGehan Close, Mt Albert, are each putting in $10 a week to buy bulk fruit and vegetables at a twice-weekly farmers' market at the Wesley community centre.

They have also started a knitting class. An older resident is teaching the younger mums how to knit woollen socks for their children.

Mr Key named the street last year as one of the "streets in our country where helplessness has become ingrained ... dead ends for those who live in them." Residents told the Herald at the time that they were scared to go outside because of groups of youngsters who had attacked people and pushed over fences.

Two young people in the street had committed suicide. The city council had recently cut down a tree where one of them hanged himself.

Mother-of-four Shirley Tuisamoa said she was robbed on the day she moved into the street, soon after Mr Key's speech.

But she said yesterday that residents had changed things by getting together. As well as the food co-op and the knitting group, they had formed a Neighbourhood Watch group, and four children from the street were taking part in a community play called Our Street next week.

"I can walk out on the street and the kids down the other end will call out, 'Hi Shirley!"' she said. "Where we used to live in Glen Eden, we just knew our immediate neighbours. In this street they know everybody and look out for each other."

The food co-op enabled the four mothers to snap up bulk bargains yesterday such as two 5kg bags of good apples and pears for $5 and two big bags of kiwifruit at 69c a kilo.

"In one of the families, the children had never had kiwifruit," Mrs Tuisamoa said.

Halamehi Havea Lousi-Loholoho, a mother of three, sees her children eating fresh tomatoes, where once they used to eat white bread. She met Mr Key when he visited last year and said it was not a "dead-end street".

"We are trying to move forward because we don't want our kids in a dead end like we had before," she said.

Her 10-year-old daughter is among a cast of 60 in Our Street, which follows an Indian family and a Samoan family as their daughters prepare for their weddings.

Housing NZ community development adviser Charlotte Esser helped tenants make contacts for the play and set up the Neighbourhood Watch group.

"Through the children, the parents got to know each other, and because the children started playing in the park, the youth gang members thought it was no longer cool to hang out there.

"Some were living in the street. I think they have all settled down, they have grown up, they have jobs and they are not interested in gangs any more. The people have taken ownership of their street."

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