Participants had concern for the future of Waiouru and perceived a downward spiral in the community resultant of the accumulation of issues such as contractors being unable attract staff, maintenance of the camp getting behind, the town becoming an undesirable place to live because of closure of community facilities and army personnel increasingly not bringing their families on posting. Investment in the maintenance of army facilities is thought to be poor due to a belief that the camp is continually at risk of closing.
The nature of postings to Waiouru, often being unaccompanied, mean that fewer families were coming to the town.
With perceived instability in the longevity of the Army presence in Waiouru, locals were concerned what changes in the Army’s position in Waiouru could mean for them in the long term.
In terms of social connectedness of the community, participants felt that it was very variable.
“It depends on who you ask. I know people who have been posted here and left within a year because they hated it. You either love it or you don’t.”
“I think there are people who are isolated because they don’t have family. Ninety-nine percent of people who live in camp, they don’t have a brother or a sister, or grandparents. So they have no family for childcare. A lot of people may not have good friends here. It’s unusual here to have three generations of family living in the same town. People come here to work and so they bring their families here because of work but as soon as work disappears or they move to a better job than they go.”
“It has an impact on friendships. They come and go. Especially with the kids, they have a good buddy who is posted off and they get really upset. And I think mums too, they make a friend and then… It’s army life. It’s a different life, it’s quite unique.”
Some concerns were held around slot machines in the community.
“Pokie machines are a bit of an issue now. I see the same people in there. But the council has set the number and I think even if there were half the number they’d be being used by the same people.”
Waiouru was seen as a very safe place to live with low crime levels. Again, as a result of the community being comprised mainly of working people, this was seen to be a driver of community safety.
“If we could close our petrol station there’d be no crime here. It seems to be people travelling through Waiouru that cause problems. Drive offs, or not paying for fuel.”
“Waiouru is unique. There were two burglaries last year in Waiouru. It’s unheard of. Either we’ve got low domestics here or it’s seriously under-reported. My gut feeling is potentially with Army families it’s underreported. You can’t tell me that mum and dad aren’t having a go at each other. They keep it in house. I think domestics are underreported, they are nationally, but we have an unusually low number.”
“I think crime is low here because everyone who comes to Waiouru has a job. They make money. If you go to work drugged or drunk then you’re not going to have a job, and then you’re not going to stay here. And so at night time everyone is too buggered to go and steal stuff!”
Winter energy costs were an increasing concern for residents, especially now that there was decreased availably of firewood locally. The cutting and dispersal of firewood used to provide an opportunity for the community to work together to ensure that vulnerable people in the community were able to stay warm during winter.
“This is the first time in years we’ve had to buy our wood in. What they did was, guys chopped the wood for other people, for cleaners, the mums on their own, and supported people that couldn’t do wood.”
“In the years when there has been wood I’ve cut firewood for four other people, because once I’ve got enough it’s like, you’re into it, let’s do it and you get other people to come down and give you a hand. The Hobby Hut used to have log splitters there and we would split wood to have and it would dry at the hobby hut and they would sell it for $50 a trailer load which is ridiculously cheap. It was there for people who needed it, it wasn’t there for people to assume they could get load after load.”