In 1994, the small West Otago town of Tapanui lost its hospital. For years after, locals had to travel to Gore, Balclutha, or Invercargill for hospital care and emergency services, away from their community and their support networks, which was a particular problem for elderly patients. But something changed.
Today, Tapanui boasts a fully-staffed rest home, Ribbonwood, and an integrated medical centre, funded by $3.6 million of local money, and 26,000 hours of volunteer time. How? In 2002 members of the community decided to take matters into their own hands, establishing the West Otago Health Trust to create the right solutions for local health needs. The Government came to the party too, gifting the land that the buildings sit on to the Trust.
Tapanui’s story illustrates some vital lessons for other towns facing challenges in New Zealand’s regions. And for many places those challenges will be significant. Over the next 30 years, it’s projected that around two-thirds of our regions will experience population stagnation or decline, with the population growing significantly older on average.
The regions may also struggle with larger economic forces. For example, as a small nation we don’t have much of a “home market” so we rely heavily on access to global markets which typically occurs through globally-linked “growth nodes” — read, urban centres with international airports and ports. Regional communities will need good transport links with these centres to take advantage of international opportunities. If they’re isolated and we can’t build the necessary roads and rail to link them in, these communities will struggle.
Continue to the full article on Newsroom || April 24, 2018 |||