Last round shows value of communities fund

The Te Hau Toka Southern Lakes Wellbeing Group’s Connecting Communities fund has gone out with a bang, putting a record $100,000 towards community-led wellbeing activities and events across the region in the next few months to help build social connections, mental-health support and resilience.

The eighth and final funding round was spread across 117 groups, each receiving up to $1000 to facilitate activities that help people connect, look after themselves and each other, and have some fun.

Since launching the fund in November 2021 as part of its efforts to combat the ongoing mental health impacts of Covid-19, Te Hau Toka has distributed more than $500,000 to 556 groups across Queenstown, Wānaka, Cromwell, and Te Anau/Fiordland.

With the group’s government funding finishing at the end of next month, Te Hau Toka chairwoman Adell Cox expressed her heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in the initiative.

"Seeing the positivity Connecting Communities has generated in the face of adversity, how much our Southern Lakes communities care about each other, and their innovative ideas to combat local mental health and wellbeing challenges, has been incredibly inspiring and rewarding", she said.

"We’ve worked on a range of initiatives with community partners and our independent evaluation, which will be released next month, shows that Connecting Communities has been one of the most successful.

"The key is giving people the power to find their own solutions because they’re best placed to know what their community needs and what works for them. Connecting Communities has just helped make them happen by providing a little bit of money to a lot of people every few months.

"While we’re really sad to see it wind up, we believe that this microfunding model has demonstrated strong proof-of-concept for organisations across New Zealand looking for community-led programmes to support mental wellbeing and disaster recovery."

A record number of applications was received for the eighth round, so Te Hau Toka focused on spreading its remaining funding as widely as possible to ensure equity and best community outcomes, as well as prioritising extra support for those most vulnerable through the winter months.

A new Queenstown-focused Salvation Army initiative led by community ministries director and highly respected community advocate Andrew Wilson will use localised street parties as a way of strengthening neighbourhoods, particularly in areas experiencing a higher-than-average turnover of residents.

"Housing is the biggest issue facing the Queenstown community and it causes a great deal of stress, uncertainty and transiency", Mr Wilson said.

"There are a number of initiatives under way to address this very complex issue but, in the meantime, we as a community have the opportunity to rally together and foster those qualities that enhance individual and community resilience.

Fiordlanders received funding for a range of new ideas as well as building on existing successful initiatives. ne of these was the Men’s Muster, a health and wellbeing event in June which organiser Samantha McBride says aims to "build better blokes".

"We’re keen for men around the region to come and experience this three-day retreat which combines adventure, personal growth, the chance to connect with like-minded blokes and have a blast together", she said.