The latest edition of BayBuzz magazine focuses substantially on our region’s social wellbeing.

[You can read the entire edition, as printed, on this online reader; links to individual articles follow, suitable for downloading. forwarding, commenting.]

Earlier this year, the Salvation Army published an excellent but disturbing report analyzing New Zealand’s social wellbeing … A Growing Divide. The report opened with a Greek proverb:

A society grows great when old men plant trees
whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

And immediately presented its bottom line:

“We have two clear choices here: one is to continue the path we have been on more or less continuously for the past three decades, concentrating wealth and influence, and driving the marginalised further into the shadows with yet restrictive welfare entitlements and a yet more punitive criminal justice system. The other is to act more inclusively and to work consciously and deliberately at ways of ensuring that the most marginalised New Zealanders, and in particular, many poor families and unemployed young people, feel as though they are valued and valuable members of our society.”

That choice about our social wellbeing applies to Hawke’s Bay as well, where an under-class staggers from generation to generation under the weight of poverty, poor education and health, commonplace alcohol and drug abuse, crime and family violence.

For others slightly better off, the situation might not be so dramatic. Maybe they’ve ‘only’ suffered the (hopefully) temporary loss of a job; maybe they can endure the setback, and cope with the financial hardship without succumbing to debt or depression. For still others, maybe all is well, except for their ‘manageable’ drinking or gambling problem.

This edition of BayBuzz looks at Hawke’s Bay’s social wellbeing. Many of the articles deal with issues confronting those struggling to cope – the young and the very old, the mentally ill, victims of family violence, the jobless, children attempting to learn while hungry or unwell.

However, on the positive side, there are many in our community who work every day as government officials, service providers and volunteers to improve the social wellbeing of others. They work with inadequate resources, in frustrating and stressful circumstances, and against entrenched systemic conditions.

They are mostly invisible to the broader community, because by and large they deal with people most of us never really see. They don’t win awards.

They complain, to be sure, as many did to BayBuzz. Almost always off the record, because as imperfect as ‘the system’ might be, it still provides the resources, even if inadequately, to try and help improve lives.

They don’t really have a champion here in Hawke’s Bay. The central government bureaucracies represented in the region are faceless. [Try to discover and contact whoever is the top official in the Bay for Child, Youth and Family Services, a critical agency given our profile.] The social service providers are loathe to bite the hand that feeds them. The clients themselves are the most powerless members of our community. Our MPs are ‘missing in action’ … busy being Ministers and toeing the party line.

Our local elected officials are also compromised. Do they or don’t they have responsibility for ‘social wellbeing’? How much? It seems to vary with the Government of the day. This Government seems more interested in building roads than building lives.

My view is that our region’s mayors (and you know my preference is for a single mayor, with a very loud voice) should become the champions of the large segment of the region’s population that is really struggling. They’ve done enough already for the ‘struggling masses’ of Havelock and Bluff Hills. And they’re plenty cosy with the Government in power. Let’s see some outspoken leadership.

Improving our social wellbeing is not exclusively about addressing hardship. BayBuzz also looks at tending to and enjoying the cultural and natural amenities of Hawke’s Bay, and at participating in sport and recreation, called by Colin Stone “the super glue of social wellbeing”. These areas also face challenges, as our articles note, but for the most part they offer a positive opportunity to us all.

It doesn’t feel quite right to urge you to ‘enjoy’ this edition. Instead I’ll just ask you to give the issues raised some serious thought.

Tom Belford

Here are the individual articles …

Not A Pretty Picture — Tom Belford (overview article)

Unemployment Is Not Working — Keith Newman

Family Violence Knows No Limits — Jessica Soutar Barron

An Illness Different For Everyone — Jessica Soutar Barron

A Long, Cold Winter — Elizabeth Sisson

When They’re Fit And Healthy They Can Do Anything — Jessica Soutar Barron

Pokie Fever! — Elizabeth Sisson

Re-discovering Maori Commercial Mojo — Ngahiwi Tomoana, chair, Ngati Kahungunu

It’s Not OK — Dr Russell Wills, paediatrician and Children’s Commissioner

Are We Ready For Old Age? — Tim Frendin, physician, Hawke’s Bay Hospital

The Super Glue Of Social Wellbeing — Colin Stone, chief executive, Sport Hawke’s Bay

Grassroots Giving — Jeanette Kelly, Hawke’s Bay Foundation

What Is Corporate Responsibility? — Jenni Giblin, director, Giblin Group

Join the Conversation


  1. Well done Tom for tackling the 'real' issues that are affecting a huge number of our people in Hawkes Bay. Insufficient resources and overpaid officials to deal with the burgeoning underclass. The government are hell-bent on creating wealth for a small percentage of our population to the detriment of the marginalised majority. As you have quite rightly pointed out, social well-being is not being addressed strongly enough. The statistics are startling and our politicians need to wake up from their feathered slumber and step outside their comfort zone to address the real issues facing many New Zealanders. You should send copies to our 'toe the party line' MP's. I love your mag, you are doing a great job!

  2. Thank you Tom and congratulations on an excellent read and for showcasing some of the real heroes in our community.

    A reminder of some unpalatable truths – a reality check about the wonderful place we live in (sigh). Well paid jobs need to be somewhere near the top of the list to help alleviate some of the issues…….but the jobs need to fit the 'people resource' we have available now. How hard can it be one asks one self….not very would be my answer (sigh and yawn)

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