May Feature

May Feature

May Feature 2418 2168 The Flyer Magazine

Wakatipu to the Rescue

A community that cares

Many beautiful stories of kindness, generosity and resilience have been emerging from the extreme hardship that has hit the Wakatipu due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Some of the stories have almost moved help agency workers to tears. From personal donations as high as $10,000 to the Salvation Army and $8300 to Happiness House to local farmers donating 100 kilos of beef and venison, and also packaging up sausages for families who are struggling.

“It’s left me speechless at times,” says Happiness House manager Robyn Francis. “People have been so generous,” she says. Otago Regional Council chairperson Marian Hobbs has also committed to regular weekly payments to Happiness House after wanting to help Queenstown in its tourism plight.

There’s been an unprecedented welfare response in the Queenstown area, with almost 8,500 requests for welfare support through the Queenstown Lakes District Council by Anzac Weekend, Mayor Jim Boult said at the time. About three quarters of those people were overseas workers in the area on employment visas, and a quarter had dependents or other family members needing support.

With winter approaching and so many local families and these migrant workers requiring assistance, Robyn’s hoping locals may want to sponsor a family or household in need by providing power and firewood. Happiness House is also setting up free, face-to-face counselling using technology.

Many kind local residents have been champing at the bit to help in any way they can, whether that be supplying and delivering firewood or dropping off clothing and warm blankets, she says. However, this isn’t allowed until the alert levels drop sufficiently. “I think we’ll all be inundated once these lift. We’ve been getting calls every day from people wanting to donate food, produce and firewood.”

The Wakatipu Community Presbyterian Church in Stanley Street has been offered as one solution or possible venue for a much-needed, co-ordinated welfare centre for migrants and families who can’t access government support, says Robyn. This would be a place to obtain solid advice along with a listening ear, hot drink and chat. Inquiry desks would be set up with interpreters to assist and volunteers could organise food, clothing and any other help from this centre. “Once this is set up, and when it’s permitted, it would be great to have those wanting to bake or make meals, donate produce and the likes, drop their goodies off to this centre,” says Robyn.

“People really don’t want to put others out, but they need to ask for assistance,” she says. “We recently encouraged a homeless client, used to living on the streets or, when he has one, a car, to move into a motel unit. He’s struggling to adapt but grateful to have solid shelter, access to a toilet and shower, whenever he needs,” says Robyn.

Baskets of Blessing delivered a box of pre-made dinners to him. “They had sent him a weeks’ worth of meals, but because it was so delicious he couldn’t stop eating the meals, so they were finished after three days,” she says.

Baskets of Blessing filling hungry tums.

Baskets of Blessing delivered a box of pre-made dinners to him. “They had sent him a weeks’ worth of meals, but because it was so delicious he couldn’t stop eating the meals, so they were finished after three days,” she says.

Baskets of Blessing’s committed volunteer team has been working hard to support people in the community. “Frequent exclamations of joy and tears of relief continue to reinforce that our delivering of meals is making a real difference,” says co-ordinator Lee Nicolson. There’s been an amazing collaboration every day between vastly different organisations and agencies, all working together to help people during challenging times, she says. Kiwi Harvest has partnered with Baskets of Blessing ensuring constant supermarket surplus produce deliveries. “This has enabled us to dramatically up-scale our volume of cooked meals being produced (as an essential service), thanks to valuable support from local businesses like Countdown, ARE Services, Bidfood, Print Central and St Johns Presbyterian Church, and food donations from Fergburger,”
says Lee.

There’s been a real empathy and desire locally to look after one another.

 A number of landlords have begun to reduce rents which is a big help, says Salvation Army director of community ministries Andrew Wilson, but help agencies would like to see more follow suit.

The Salvation Army has been delivering warm clothing and bedding to those in need. Happiness House and the local Cancer Society have donated clothing from their stocks. Food parcels are also being dropped to those who can’t or shouldn’t go to supermarkets, says Andrew.

Kindness is also flowing in from around the South Island. Empty homes from as far away as the West Coast, Nelson and Timaru have been offered up to house migrant Wakatipu workers once alert levels ease, including a backpacker property and Airbnb homes.

AG Proud, a charitable trust of Southland farmers, has a heap of surplus beef that farmers are donating and processing to help feed people in the Queenstown Lakes area.

Queenstown Lakes District Council welfare manager Jan Maxwell says with help from Volunteering Central she’s had a marvellous team of more than 70 callers contacting those registered for welfare assistance. In one day in late April they’d made 523 calls to people needing help. It’s a need that could continue on for six months, she says. Most of those needing help were migrant workers on visas. “These are the people who make our coffee and clean our hotel rooms and public toilets, doing jobs that maybe Kiwis don’t want to do,” says Jan. It’s the Wakatipu’s turn to care for them, she says. “If we lose them then our tourism industry will probably be even worse off.”

Substantial donations and grants are being gathered by the Wakatipu Community Foundation’s Greatest Needs Fund too. Unprompted, this fund was spearheaded by well-known local fundraiser Kaye Parker and a specially formed, hardworking grants committee. By the end of April almost $580,000 had been raised with more than $162,000 approved to Queenstown frontline organisations.

Mayor Jim Boult says so many people have worked so hard locally during the fight against Covid-19 and given so much of themselves. “There’s a long road ahead to get through, but I know you’re up for the task, and together as a community we will get through this,” says Jim.

How can we help?

Salvation Army
Ph: 03 4425103 or

Countdown Food Project

Happiness House
Ph: 03 4426531 or email [email protected]

Baskets of Blessing
Nominate recipients for meals at

To donate email [email protected] or text/phone Lee on 021957203

QLDC welfare response

Greatest Needs Fund website