The impact of low housing affordability and overcrowding was noted by participants as having an impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of the people of Raetihi.
“It’s the lack of the security. It creates a whole stress and that results in a number of different illnesses. If people don’t have security of housing that results in illness."
Respiratory illness, infectious disease and drug and alcohol addiction are the most concerning health issues for the participants. Overcrowded living conditions in the close-knit community are viewed as contributing factors to illness outbreaks affecting school attendance.
“Asthma is huge. Mainly children. Because the homes aren’t healthy. They’re not insulated properly. But it’s well known that in this region asthma is one of the highest, in the Waimarino area. Weather has an impact of course but mainly because of the homes. The homes aren’t healthy to live in. I’m helping someone purchasing a house and it’s not worth the amount, it’s only half insulated.”
Participants were particularly concerned about the impact of drug and alcohol use and believe there is a major lack in “high demand” support services, especially for primary age children.
“Another thing that has a huge impact is drug and alcohol use. It’s bad. We’re seeing the after-affects coming through with young people. A lot of children living with grandparents because parents aren’t able to look after them. Behaviour through the roof. It has a huge impact, especially here.”
“From an education point of view, accessing qualified psychologist for our kids, we just have to jump through hoops for it. And there are so many kids who need social workers, qualified social workers. For mental illness and developmental disorders. At the college they’ve had to employ a counsellor because there was no access and they’ve had to use their own money…”
It was noted that there were programs available locally through iwi and health providers to assist in the insulation of homes, particularly when there were people with chronic health conditions living in the house. However accessing these programs was seen by some to be problematic.
“There are programs out there but there is a waiting list, and as far as I can see it’s not what you know but who you know. Someone’s just moved in a year or so after my daughter applied, and someone’s working on their place already! My daughter is asthmatic and her kids have got eczema and she’s had to buy HRV. I don’t believe it’s a clear or transparent system.”
“The health board helped with our granddaughter. Because she had so many visits to the hospital we got our house insulated. It’s about really having that knowledge about who’s who in the zoo and where to go to get that support.”
Participants in Raetihi expressed some positive sentiments toward the availability of health services noting that a new integrated family health centre is presently being constructed in the town.
“They’re spending millions there to get it running. We won’t need to go anywhere really. Specialists will come up here. And there is a shuttle that takes people to Palmerston or Whanganui, we’ve got ambulance, air ambulance, and if they have to go into the hospital they can, so accessibility is pretty good really.”
“I think the health system here is improving, everyone is on the same page, and you know, the communities are. We’ve really advanced in terms of the health system and like, education around the key things like diabetes, respiratory problems, they are the key things in a lower socioeconomic area that has a huge impact. So I think that the health system here is really starting to step up and our community will see some changes, and providers working together in an integrated way, and encouraging people to look at managing, it’s holistic, you know we have respiratory problems with children here but once we get these houses sorted I think, well I hope, we’ll get things sorted.”
“The problem is people don’t know what is available to them. Through WINZ, grants, but there is an app coming out soon that will help people find out what is available to them.”
Maternity care was considered available in Raetihi but not always accessible, with some women from vulnerable families thought to be not accessing maternity care at all throughout their pregnancies.
“We’ve got midwives here and I think people are satisfied with the availability of maternity services now. There was a risk they were going but they’re going to stay. […] and if we look at that and think of our community we’ve got people that can access them and they do, but lots of families, and quite a few of them with drug and alcohol, which won’t access them”.