It was felt that social isolation was an issue in the community, especially for people who were new to the area or living in particular geographically isolated areas.
“I’d say the isolation now impacts on people’s wellbeing. I notice a lot to do with farming, depression and that sort of thing. Then of course there’s people who come in and end up feeling isolated and have no one to talk to and trust. It’s about who their groups are and who they can share with. Once upon a time everyone used to go to everyone’s houses for a cup of tea, and as time went on… people would ask, ‘Do you know such and such’ and I wouldn’t.”
“There used to be the picnic that happened at the school and then we had it at the farm. It used to be National Park Picnic Day and all the community would get together and then at the school but nobody really makes a real effort now. They make it too hard for themselves, too complicated.”
There are limited formal ways that people, especially new people to the area, might connect with others in the community. Despite the lack of formal social groups, it was considered that there is a strong community spirit and that people do ‘pull together’ when necessity demands.
“I’m not from New Zealand so I don’t fully understand the concept of whanau. But I feel like that village is my whanau. They’ve taken my kids, they’ve raised them. I had to leave once for three weeks because my sister’s kid was in hospital and all those people filled those gaps so my husband could keep working. All the gaps were filled. When we had kids people brought us meals. My husband was sick and people filled our woodshed. So the community does, it is an awesome community.”
“The ones that associate with the school are usually really welcomed into the school and get embraced really quickly. If they’ve got kids, but if you don’t have kids you wouldn’t have that opportunity.”
“(New people would meet the community at) Schnapps or something won’t they? Is there a church? There is kind of in Raurimu. But not so many social things. They used to have ping pong at the hall. But it doesn’t exist now. There was bowling, kapa haka, the band, but not now. Not that I’m aware of. We had scouts and brownies. We even had a rugby club. Netball club.”
“Raurimu has a good social dynamic, a social village. It’s very connected so I’ll have the kids there and I’ve got no family or extended family. But I know my kids will always have someone’s house to go to. And we have never been short of support as people with kids and no family around. And we have the pool so when it’s hot everyone meets at the pool. We have had a winter disco and a summer BBQ.”
Community projects and activities were considered to be opportunities where people can meet, socialise and work together. It was considered that development had focused on tourism and not on communities that support the tourist industry.
“Things like the bike track, they bring together the adults and the kids. And there is talk of a skate park as well, and that brings together adults and kids. So we do need more things to do, eh”.
“There’s a lot emphasis on commercialisation of our environment. But if they could equate it will a little bit more social things, community.”
“The tourism does bring in the money but it doesn’t bring in the community. It feels to me like there is so much of a focus on tourism in this area that people are forgetting the people who live here. It makes me angry. It really makes me angry because it feels like they’re exploiting the people who live here for the tourist dollar and that’s not OK. People who live here need to be cared for and looked after and I’m sick to death of the tourist dollar is the thing that everyone seems to be chasing.”
One of the groups with the highest social isolation was considered to be farmers and those working on farms in the rural areas around National Park.
“The farmers, they’re very isolated. And um, yeah, they have some mental health issues from isolation. They’re doing it pretty hard sometimes. Just working in total isolation. And there’s less farmers because a lot of farms have been taken over by forestry companies, honey companies. They’re much more isolated from everything – medical care, schooling. It’s hard for them.”
In terms of demographics, it was considered that there weren’t many aged people living in National Park.
“My mum moved away to be closer to health services. We don’t seem to have the elderly here really. Maybe that’s why. It’s too cold, they go to warmer places. I often think that, we don’t have many elderly people here. There’s a few more retired people in Raurimu but I’d move there, it’s that much warmer than here.”
Drugs were considered present but not a significantly visible element or problem in National Park.
“It could be out in the community.”
“There are pockets, eh. Unfortunately. I think from my perspective we keep an eye on it, especially where our kids are. Not everybody knows about it, a lot of people wouldn’t know that in their own community this sort of thing is going on.”
“There’s sometimes a bit of a rumble for a little bit but if kids are around when it’s happening, but there is a community response. Like, Aunty will deal with it, or someone will text me and say come and get so and so, they should not be at this house."
National Park is serviced by an ‘amazing’ local shop. Otherwise people bought their groceries in Ohakune, Taupo, Taumarunui or Turangi. Those without cars are supported by other members of the community.
“You do have to plan ahead.”
“A lot of the older ones don’t drive, don’t have cars, so we offer to take them in. There’s a small bunch that we will go and check on them.”