Community advisors see challenge ahead

Corren Ngerengere (left) and Gina Scott have begun new roles as community advisors for Waipā District Council.

Waipā District Council’s new commmunity advisors have a huge job ahead to help Waipā people recover equitably from the 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 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 when economic predictions were dire.

Waipā is faring better than expected but Gina and Corren say some locals are doing it tough and will find it harder to bounce-back.

Both have backgrounds in Waipā’s community sector – Gina with Sport Waikato and Corren with social services.

But 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.”

The availability of rental properties and the rocketing cost of housing in the district has been identified as a key issue.

“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.

She has also identified an underlying level of anxiety 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 now a clear conduit between the community sector and Council.

“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.”

“We are navigators of sorts and on behalf of our community, we have a big and important task ahead,” Gina said.

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