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Participants felt that the population of Raetihi was stable, with as many new people arriving as there were leaving. The population of Raetihi was considered different from nearby Ohakune in a number of ways:

"I see both people coming to the area and leaving the area. A few people have left to go to family elsewhere, they want to be closer to their grandchildren or their parents or what have you, I’ve seen quite a few people leave. And I've also seen a lot of young families coming in, ah... Because they often end up in our shop. They come and say, "We've just moved to the area." There's quite a lot, actually."
"It is quite surprising, yeah. Because I do (redacted, job role) and we get quite a few people in, they introduce themselves. Some have moved back here. Got roots here. They definitely regard it as home. But others are taking off to Australia. All ages, I would say. There are some older people which surprises me. Because some of the older people that have been here for a while, they eventually go to Whanganui to get some warmer weather. There seems to be a few coming here to retire."
"A lot of them have come from Auckland, they want to get out of the rat race. And it's affordable, compared to an Auckland house. You know, so if they owned a house in Auckland and they managed to find one here, they could renovate and still have change!"
"The change would buy the house next door!"
"The population seems fairly level. It's been quite level sitting around the thousand mark. Our usually resident population is bigger than Ohakune's. It will be interesting to see what the next census says. But it's probably sitting around a thousand, so not declining."
"Our population is more Māori, younger than normal, than the average."
"There's no middle. It's basically a lot of older people, a lot of younger people. There's not a whole lot in the middle. It's an interesting demographic."

Participants were concerned about the decline of Raetihi from what was once a busy service town, and questioned the possibility of economy recovery in the town:

"I would say these houses were built around the time Raetihi was meant to be a boom town, a rural service town. It was a rural service town and Ohakune was a railway town. So at one stage this town used to have a Farmers department store, Friday night shopping. A supermarket. Three banks. A holden dealer. Several chemists. It was really busy and you couldn't get a park on the street. There's a few quite nice bigger houses, probably 1930s and of course some prior to that. It was a service town and so people who were employed at the hospital, there was a big hospital. People who worked in the banks. It's really changed completely. In previous discussions I thought in a way, describing Raetihi now is a dormitory town. It might be a way to go because a lot of people who live here work in Ohakune or Waiouru or whatever. So it's much more of a dormitory town than it used to be."
"When the hospital closed there was a cascading decline. the shops, the banks. All those parts of Raetihi that were servicing the hospital staff, they disappeared. Those people who were professionals who worked in the hospital and the banks, they went and of course when you take away the professionals, the managerial class, you take away a huge chunk of the local economy. The problem we have now is how do you address the relative poverty that we have without that, you know, level of local economy?"

Participants felt, as in 2020, that Raetihi residents often did not receive an adequate level of Council support. A long-standing perception of unsatisfactory service has resulted in feelings of cynicism and fatigue when it comes to matters related to community development:

"It's the flooding, the old stormwater. Back in the day they just used to chuck things wherever, and it was never properly marked out. Our house is old and so, simple things. It's hard to find out where your rights are. I hate moaning, and people here put up with a lot of stuff because they don't want to moan. And people will ask me, “Why are you moaning, what’s happening down that road is nothing to do with you?” And I’m like, “I’m moaning because no one else will speak! I will, because I want better for our town.”"
"There's a general kind of feeling in Raetihi that we've asked and asked and asked for things from Council and it's always been put off. And that's been happening for decades. So there's a bit of apathy that goes on. People aren't always really keen to raise issues anymore. It's tiring. We go through so many groups of people that get together and go, "Let's put some energy into this project and everyone group tries their best and comes up against a brick wall and then gives up."
"You get a bit of fatigue too because the same people will all the time be standing up to try and lead and then you're bashing your head against the wall."
"It's the expectations of people gradually lower. Things don't happen, the baseline gets lower and lower ‘til there is no expectation of anything being done and essentially people become very cynical. If you come from outside a place like Raetihi from somewhere else, you realise just what isn't done. But for the people who live here and have been here most of their lives it's normal. The expectations are fairly low."
"One of the problems is people will raise an issue in a public forum but the issue never actually goes any further than that. You know, it's acknowledged. They go away. Then it's forgotten."
"Nothing happens."
"Nothing happens. They don’t come back to you either way. This is one of the problems that we have is that the Council isn’t a very good Council in that regard for a number of reasons. Primarily because it doesn't have any money, it's under resourced. They are, it's legacy issues like that. Under resourcing, not enough staff to do the work; we've also learnt to make excuses."

Notwithstanding these sentiments, whereas in 2020 resident of Raetihi seemed disheartened about the lack of action toward their town’s revitalisation plan, in 2023 they seemed somewhat more positive:

"Raetihi has been a township that hasn't had a lot of attention. Until now, and it's commendable what (Redacted, Council staff member name) is doing, and the work that she's doing. But it's late in coming and issues like the stormwater, they're important issues that need to be addressed and I'm hoping that with the attention that we're getting now that council will address them."
"The pool has needed to be renovated for over a decade."
"The pool? I've given up on the pool."
"(redacted) was a real advocate for the pool and he's even given up. That's saying something. There's a crack in that pool, and so much chlorinated water going into the river."
"Has the council fixed it"
"My understanding is the crack has been repaired. But I’m hearing things that are quite positive with Council's involvement. There's talk of a new pool."
"I think it’s very positive the way that council is starting to reach out to this community, to repair the fractured relationships between the town and Council. I think that would be really positive. There are tentative steps being made here and I applaud that."

The elderly were considered to be most vulnerable to social isolation, particularly as the town's infrastructure decreases.

"Now that the bank's closed, that was their visit. And the hairdresser closed. That's where the elderly ladies go, for their little gossips but you know, it was something for them to live for next time round. That's one thing our elderly need, there's a lot of people who sit in their homes and don't come out. It’s quite sad to see. It would be cool to see someone to go out and support them, you know, if they need a gold card or if they need this, but there’s really no service that does that. Or if you’ve got a sickness, if you need home care."
"If they don’t have the Whānau around."
"The Raetihi Marae is making real efforts to reach out."
"But there’s a lot that get missed out. People think it’s just for Māori, but it’s not. It’s not."

In terms of extracurricular opportunities available for children and young people, it was noted that there was not a lot of formal or organised activities in which high school aged children might get involved:

"After school they go roaming. There’s not a lot to do."

"It's a thing, they go roaming."
"That's where they meet up with their mates to go roaming. But in this community if you wanted to know whose kid that was you'd just ask the two people next to you and they'd know. Everyone knows who someone belongs to, really, or has a good idea."
"But they’ve always been polite. Absolutely, always."
"And it goes through cycles of them being a bit naughty, like when they climb on the roofs of the buildings, that sort of thing."
"But they're pretty well watched over, everyone's keeping an eye out which is a really cool thing."
"The kids are in the river, in summer, all the time."
"The council pool opens really late. The kids are down there."
"Our kids live there in summer. Both, once the pool closes they're back to the river."

Expressing a similar observation as in 2020, participants noted that while things for young people in which they might participate sometimes did become available, making them consistent and sustainable was a challenge:

"There's sort of, a few things going on there's Raetihi Promotions, Raetihi Community Charitable Trust as well. They do events here, they've created a playground. There are things like basketball for kids after school. There's a few things, but they’re never consistent, or very rare that they last the ... they'll last a term or two and the person that organising it will move away."
"Or it’s hard to find a place to do it. The dance lessons fell away here because they couldn't find the right, a warm enough place. Just finding, I think there's Yoga will come and go. And then the person will leave the district. Everyone will get on board and they'll be really popular but then it will stop."
"I think when there is a need or want for something, people will band to get together and do it. But the consistency's not there."

Participants felt that drug use in the community remained a significant issue. A lack of treatment or support options, and the connect with drug use to underlying social determinants, were noted:

"Drugs are a huge problem."
"A huge problem."
"A huge, huge problem."
"It's P, P is your major. A lot of people do weed around here, but P's just become the new thing and it's getting scary. You know who is on it around here, to be quite honest. There’s not support really. They’re (drug users) just shoved under the carpet and it shouldn’t be. It’s sad."
"It’s become acceptable."
"Drugs are a manifestation of poverty. They deal drugs because they're in poverty. And they're dealing drugs to their neighbours, their friends and it's a spiral."
"No one's tried to support this. In the ten years that I’ve been here I’ve heard of one thing at the Marae. They've got people who are getting out to talk. You've got Ngāti Rangi who have got people that are helping. But the police don't shut them down. That's the word on the street."

Crime problems were considered to occur relatively intermittently, with the exception of family violence:

"Burglaries, they come and go."
"They come for a little holiday. They'll come and then they'll get run out of town. Because the locals are very proud. There are some that are not, but a lot of the elders will give them a kick. Old school. Or give the parents a kick up the bum."
"Domestic violence. It's the same, the same lot. But yeah, it's.. you think it gets better then you hear about it again. There's something else."

Notwithstanding their various concerns about Raetihi, participants felt that, generally, there were many residents who loved and were dedicated to Raetihi, and that the community had much potential, and was a very good place to live:

"People say it’s derelict. No it’s not! It’s got its problems but it’s a beautiful community full of people who want it to be better and who care about each other."
"Seeing my babies being able to walk to school, go to school, go down to the river with their cousins. And sometimes not even cousins but still somehow cousins, and they grow up in that real safe community spirit. That's cool. That support. The village. What we've got is starting to be beautiful."
"We need to make people aware that there is stuff, amongst the derelict buildings, there is stuff to come to."
"What we really need is a sign as you come into Raetihi is a sign, “Raetihi, Gateway to the Whanganui National Park.” And to get here you go down Seddon Street, and there are businesses here that would love to see people; a café, Dinosaur House, Volcano Vibe…making people aware, because if you’re on State Highway Four, you’ll just drive straight through. A nice pou at the end, you know?"
"We’ve got some beautiful carvers here."
"You can fault heaps of things.. but I love this place, my kids, we don’t have family but we are getting whangai’d from everywhere."

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