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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.

Free stress and wellbeing training courses in Buller

West Coast DHB media release: 20th September 2021

Wellbeing representatives are concerned that COVID-19 lockdown stresses on top of flooding issues are stretching Buller folk’s ability to manage.

West Coast DHB Director of Allied Health Jane George says the various organisations supporting the psychosocial and wellbeing of Kawatiri folk had noticed that the pressures of the COVID-19 Delta Level 4 lockdown on top of issues from the recent flooding were taking its toll.

“We’ve heard reports of people struggling, and these are folk who are usually more than capable of coping with things. Red Cross offers these great courses, and so we’ve organised a couple of half days coming up that might help give people a few strategies to get them through,” Ms George says.

The free Coping with Stress courses take place at the Westport Bridge Club on:

  • Tuesday 28th September 2021 (1 to 5pm); and
  • Thursday 30th September 2021 (9am to 1pm).

Email wellbeing[at]redcross.org.nz to book your place.

A few spots will also be available on the free Psychosocial First Aid course designed for people involved with wellbeing organisations.
That course takes place on Wednesday 29th September 2021 (9am to 4pm) at the Westport Bridge Club.

COVID-19 vaccinations on the West Coast

Updated 25th August 2021

West Coast DHB is running a number of COVID-19 vaccination clinics including mobile clinics in rural communities such as Franz Josef, Haast, Hari Hari, Karamea and Whataroa.

The West Coast DHB COVID-19 vaccine roll-out plan in rural areas is based on optimising the number of people vaccinated – not the number of vaccination clinics. This means that they will be offering appointments to all eligible people (aged 12 years of age or older) when clinics are set-up in smaller townships.

We encourage anyone who is not registered with a general practice to do so.

West Coast DHB is currently planning drive-through COVID-19 vaccination events for various locations across the Coast.

All vaccinations are free and are by appointment only.

There is plenty of vaccine for everyone, so no-one will miss out. Your patience is appreciated.

Misuse puts rubbish bins in Westport at risk

Buller District Council media release: 13th August 2021

Three Westport rubbish bins located at the Esplanade, Floating Basin and North Beach have been heavily misused and are at risk of being removed.

The three bins are part of a network of five rubbish bins that were installed by Buller District Council in freedom camping areas in Reefton, Nagakawa and Westport in 2019.

The bins were installed to allow visitors to dispose responsibly small waste items at recreational venues in the district. The sites were located near freedom camping areas.

However, the Westport bins have been misused by some residents to dispose of household and commercial waste. As a result, the quantity of rubbish collected by council’s contractor WestReef Services increased significantly to the point where the bins needed to be emptied daily.

42 tons of waste were collected from the three bins alone from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021. This is an average of 14 tonnes per bin. The total operating costs were $32,000, including labour and disposal fees. Comparing this to an average of 1.47 tons of waste per bin collected from 15 public bins in Westport (22 tons per year) underlines the issue and ongoing misuse.

Manager infrastructure delivery Eric de Boer says: “There is a level of un-acceptability here. These bins were initially provided for visitors and freedom campers to our district. This was funded through the central government Freedom Camping Fund. Now that this funding support has ceased, rate payers are paying for locals dumping their waste at these facilities.”

Continued access to free GP consultations for flood affected patients

West Coast DHB media release: 6th August 2021

Zero fees for GP and Nurse Practitioner appointments will remain in place for all people enrolled at both Buller Medical Centre and Coast Medical in Westport.

Both GP practices will continue to provide this service to enrolled patients who have been directly affected by the recent flood event until early November 2021.

This service is being provided to support members of the Westport community who have been most affected by recent events to ensure they have access to health care services as they rebuild their lives.

All enrolled patients can also still access free health advice after hours by calling their GP practice and following the instructions on the answerphone:

  • Call Buller Medical Centre on 03 788 9277; and
  • Call Coast Medical on 03 789 5000.


Healthinfo West Coast.

Page last updated: 21/09/2021

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