Project leader Tess Trotter said it had become clear to the North East Valley-based community project that Covid-19 had a broad impact, and the organisation had "elected to focus our energies" towards responding and building community resilience.
During New Zealand’s initial Covid-19 Alert Levels 4 and 3 in March, April and May, many people had realised the vital importance of their local communities, social connection, getting to know neighbours, and food resiliency, Ms Trotter said.
"And so many of those emerging themes relate back to the community development work that we already do," she said.
The Valley Project would take a holistic approach to a range of Covid-related issues, including the local economy, emerging unemployment, food security issues, and an increasing need for people to access more mental health services.
"This is the rainy day, so we are going to put our energy and resource into it and hope that it will be well supported by funders and members of the community," Ms Trotter said.
"We feel we are well placed to talk with the community and get their thoughts on what response it needed — we want to stay true to the idea of being community-led."
So far, feedback had included helping connect residents with local businesses, employment support such as creating CVs, and in particular food resilience.
"We are wanting to build up our local food resilience, while acknowledging the strengths we already have with our community orchards and gardens, and our kai share programme."
The Valley Project community development co-ordinator Charlotte Wilson said projects such as kai share not only helped local families, but resulted in wider positive outcomes.
"People have a shared experience, which results in supportive friendships and community connection — not only helping people with their food security, but weaving them into the community," Ms Wilson said.
Ms Trotter said this was important in the context of the rise in anxiety and depression across New Zealand, and the need for community solutions.
‘We already know the benefits of bringing people together and supporting each other, so our hope is that we can work with the community to facilitate that."
The project was also ramping up its support for community members’ efforts to mass-produce face masks.
As it continued its transformation to a Covid response hub, the Valley Project would be making some modifications to its North East Valley rooms to provide working and gathering spaces for people.
"We also want to increase our collaboration with other organisations and agencies," Ms Trotter said.
In the coming weeks and months, the Valley Project will be making every effort to get community feedback on the future direction of the hub.