If you’ve been to any town centre clean-ups or Eye on Nature events in South Auckland over the last two decades, you’ll be familiar with the lady with seemingly endless amounts of energy, taking charge and getting her hands dirty.
Now, after 18 years of employment at the Beautification Trust and an even longer legacy of service to South Auckland communities, the “Pocket Rocket” Barbara Carney has hung up her gloves for a very well-earned retirement.
"Barbara has made immeasurable contributions to the South Auckland community and environment, both in her professional career and as a community leader, volunteer and advocate," says Beautification Trust CEO, Daniel Barthow.
Back in 1997, Barbara was the leader of the St Elizabeth's Anglican Church youth group, which started a community volunteering programme to clean up graffiti in Clendon. This small, grassroots initiative led by Barbara was the starting point of a growing community movement, ultimately leading to the establishment of the Manukau Beautification Charitable Trust in 2001.
The Trust formally employed Barbara in 2004, initially to manage the eradication of graffiti. “Barbara’s an extremely well organised person and she doesn’t take much nonsense from anybody, including me,” says former Beautification Trust General Manager, Graeme Bakker. “She was very committed to getting the Trust up and running and put in a huge amount of hours and energy.”
With her passionate belief in what young people can be and do, Barbara rapidly developed the Trust’s education programme to instill South Auckland’s youth with a sense of pride in their environment and their community.
Barbara also pioneered the Trust’s famous town centre clean-ups, where community members pitch in to pick up litter, paint out graffiti, remove weeds and beautify their local spaces. The growing sense of local pride from these volunteer efforts had a significant impact on reducing graffiti vandalism, and the great results inspired a snowball effect of more and more people wanting to be involved.
One of Barbara's most significant achievements is Eye on Nature, the Trust's signature environmental education programme. Barbara led the first Eye on Nature School Days in 2012, and grew the programme with the introduction of the annual Whānau Day, as well as the Creative Arts and Wearable Arts competitions.
"Her heart and soul has gone into those programmes," says Daniel. "It's a testament to her – the success, the impact, the number of people engaged. Now, ten years later, these programmes continue to inspire thousands of tamariki, rangatahi and their whānau in South Auckland every year."
Barbara's time with the Trust has always been a family affair, with her husband and daughters pitching in to volunteer at events. "She always dragged her poor husband Neil to events, whether he wanted to or not," laughs Graeme. "He must have cooked hundreds of thousands of sausages!"
More recently, Barbara’s final major project with the Trust before her retirement has been establishing the Trust's new Zero Waste programme, laying the groundwork for a Community Recycling Centre, waste minimisation education and repair cafés.
"This important work will enable the Trust to teach, inspire and empower our communities to reuse, repurpose, repair and minimise their waste for many years to come," says Daniel.
Barbara will be missed by all of us here at the Trust, but it's not "goodbye forever"... Barbara has already signed up as a volunteer and Boomer Shed member so she can keep doing what she loves in her retirement. We're absolutely thrilled that Barbara will still be part of our whānau, wearing a different hat.
We love you Barbara, you're an inspiration to us all! Arohanui.