Community advisors admit 'huge' challenge ahead
Waipā District Council’s new commmunity advisors know they have a huge job ahead to help Waipā people recover equitably from the ongoing impacts of Covid-19.
Just two weeks into the job Gina Scott and Corren Ngerengere have begun to identify key challenges for the district’s social sector. And they have also begun to see barriers to recovery, particularly one which includes the most vulnerable.
Gina and Corren began their new jobs in early November, charged with helping coordinate locally-led initiatives and, in partnership with iwi, working alongside Waipā organisations to assist those hardest hit by Covid-19. The 18-month fixed-term roles are funded from the $795,000 recovery package set aside by Council in June this year when economic predictions were dire.
While Waipā is faring better economically than first feared, both Gina and Corren say some locals are doing it tough and will find it harder to bounce-back. While each have huge backgrounds in Waipā’s community sector – Gina with Sport Waikato and Corren with social services – both admit to being surprised at how much is going on in the community space.
Gina said they have already found groups and issues they weren’t aware of, or issues they didn’t realise the extent of.
“Our immediate goal is to get out and cast our net far and wide so we can work in those areas of most need. It’s obvious there are some significant inequities in how some parts of the community are doing. What’s great is that people so far are very receptive to us and they clearly want a more localised, coordinated approach to community services which I completely support.”
Both Gina and Corren have recognised some key issues, particularly the availability of rental properties and the rocketing cost of housing in the district.
“It’s easy for people to ‘flip to’ social housing because the private rental market is incredibly expensive. But even people with money to spend on a house can’t afford to buy here so it’s extremely challenging,” Corren said.
“The other thing I have picked up on is a real underlying level of anxiety out there and a lack of early mental health interventions. There are people needing support who may never have needed it before. Some have already spoken to us about specific concerns they have about Waipā children and the additional pressures some children are now under because of stressed circumstances.”
Council’s group manager strategy and community services Debbie Lascelles said there was no “magic wand” but there was now a clear conduit between the community sector and Council which had not previously existed.
“Gina and Corren’s immediate job is to get out into the community, see what’s needed and then create a measurable action plan based on that assessment. Economically Waipā is holding its own but the next 12-24 months are very uncertain and there will be tough times ahead for plenty of our people.”
Meanwhile both Gina and Corren know the way they shape their new roles, and interact with the community, will be vital to the results they achieve.
“The onus is on us to make a success of these new roles. We are navigators of sorts and on behalf of our community, we have a big and important task ahead,” Gina said.