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Community and Public Health on the West Coast (Greymouth)

Nearly 33,000 people live in the Buller, Grey and Westland Districts – a 400 km long region between the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea. This makes the West Coast/ Te Tai Poutini one of the most sparsely populated regions in New Zealand. The remote nature of many small and isolated communities poses specific health challenges around sewage treatment and disposal, and potable water.

The natural beauty of the area attracts more than 1 million visitors a year, largely during the spring and summer months. This level of tourist activity carries some environmental risks for recreational water contamination and infectious diseases, especially in popular destinations such as Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers and Punakaiki. The predominantly young and transient population of tourists and those employed in the tourism industry creates concerns around safe sexual behaviours and responsible alcohol use.

Enabling wellbeing and equity of outcomes for everyone on the West Coast

The health promotion team supports improving and maintaining the health and wellbeing (hauora) of West Coasters by connecting communities and supporting the creation of healthy and sustainable environments (including early childhood education and schools). Current initiatives focus on:

  • mental wellbeing;
  • Māori health;
  • healthy eating;
  • physical activity;
  • healthy ageing and injury prevention;
  • supporting smoke-free environments; and
  • working alongside key stakeholders to reduce alcohol related harm.

Community and Public Health is a partner in Active West Coast – working with District Councils to improve and promote hauora on the West Coast. The Westland Recreation is open and well used by the community, and major developments are occurring in Buller and Westland as part of their new physical activity strategy. Staff are also contributing to the development of a region-wide walking and cycling strategy.

The Greymouth office has a Community Health Information Centre, providing a range of health education resources from the Ministry of Health and other providers.

Introducing Takiwā Poutini

Takiwā Poutini: People, place, wellbeing.Takiwā Poutini is a three-year West Coast pilot programme to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for all – particularly focused on Māori, Pacific peoples and people who experience disability.

We know we need to change the way our people and communities are supported and treated. Ideally, we’ll be creating a more holistic model that places people in the centre.

The health and wellbeing needs of people in our takiwā/ locality are not the same as those of the people in other parts of Aotearoa. We want to improve the health and wellbeing of our West Coast people – no matter who they are, or where they live on Te Tai o Poutini.

Takiwā Poutini gives us all an opportunity to come up with our own solutions that are place-based.

The system co-design will particularly focus on iwi thoughts, ideas and recommendations about how to improve health and wellbeing outcomes.

Look after West Coast lakes: Check, clean, dry and report

Lake Ianthe Jetty Image: Francis Fahnestock. Source: Department of Conservation.The Department of Conservation (DOC) and West Coast Regional Council (WCRC) are urging boaties, anglers and anyone who spends time on West Coast lakes to help protect against freshwater pests.

The message to West Coast lake users is clean, check, dry and report to stop freshwater pests from spreading in local waters which have some of the most outstanding natural values in the country.

DOC Hokitika Operations Manager Owen Kilgour says some pest threats can’t be seen by the naked eye on a tramping boot or boat – such as lindavia (lake snow).

“A single drop of water, plant fragment or fish egg can be all it takes to spread an invasive freshwater pest from a contaminated water body to a pristine one.”

Freshwater pests which get into lakes squeeze out native freshwater vegetation and fish. Where freshwater weeds grow in waterways and drains, they exacerbate flooding in the surrounding catchment. Both pest fish and weedy plants are extremely difficult and expensive to get rid of once established.

“We all need to do our bit and protect our lakes by always checking, cleaning and drying gear that’s been in contact with water before moving on,” Owen Kilgour says. “Early detection is essential to managing new incursions and preserving lake quality.”

WCRC leads an annual summer surveillance programme in conjunction with DOC’s Freshwater Biosecurity programme to detect incursions of introduced freshwater weeds on the West Coast.

Discoveries of any freshwater pest should be reported via the Find a Pest or iNaturalist apps. People can also contact WCRC directly by emailing clear photographs and coordinates to info[at]wcrc.govt.nz.


Healthinfo West Coast.

Page last updated: 20/11/2023

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