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For the first time in five years an overall mental wellbeing index, just measured post-cyclone, indicates significantly greater distress felt among Napier residents.

A Napier City Council meeting on Thursday August 10 discussed these key findings of the Post-Cyclone Community Wellbeing Survey.

The survey, conducted between May 5 and June 6, 2023, included 466 respondents.

Mental health and wellbeing concerns following the cyclone (including experience of anxiety, stress, depression, grief, fear, exhaustion, and concern for others) were reported by two out of three people (66%). As a result, the overall mental wellbeing index significantly increased for the first time in five years (indicating greater distress) averaging 12.1, up from 10.5 in 2022 (top of scale, highest distress, equals 20).

Eight out of 10 people also reported the cyclone had negatively impacted them – 17% reported being severely impacted and 66% somewhat impacted.

Impacts included damage to property and/or valuables, health impacts, and other negative experiences such as work loss or disruption, loss of power, travel delays, and affected family members.

Physical health impacts were reported by 19% of respondents. These included strains, bruising, and back/knee injuries as well as respiratory concerns, fatigue, raised anxiety and limited access to health services.

Overall sentiment about life in Napier was lower compared to 2022, with 60% of people rating their life as good or very good, down from 70%.

The impact of the cyclone was a contributing factor, with those experiencing significant cyclone related damage more likely to rate their life as poor.

Despite this and the impacts of the cyclone, 69% of people indicated an intention to continue living in Napier for the next five years, compared to 72% in 2022.

This commitment was attributed in part to the strong community resilience and social connections experienced by respondents.

Community resilience was in the spotlight when Napier businesses and how they were faring, post cyclone, was discussed at the council meeting.

The Napier City Council-commissioned survey asked questions of just over 400 businesses on how Cyclone Gabrielle had impacted their operations, to understand how Council could best support their recovery.

Although 73% reported a negative impact on their operations from the cyclone, 43% expected to return to pre-cyclone trading levels within six months, and 25% anticipated trading at even higher levels.

Around 14% of businesses reported a positive impact following the cyclone.

The survey identified a high rate of business retention, with 83% of Napier businesses foreseeing continued operation in the city for the next five years.

Napier City Council’s Economic Development Manager, Bill Roberts, said council was focused on doing everything possible to support businesses in their recovery.

“We’re continuing to promote and support business events run by either Council or other organisations. We’re also supporting business training and development organisations to upskill our city’s small businesses,” Roberts said.

Councillor Sally Crown, who holds Council’s Economic Development portfolio, said council has focused on what businesses want.

“It’s encouraging to see that what we’ve focused on post-cyclone matches what our business community noted in their responses, which is more contact between Council and local business, better communication and relationship building.

“We recognise that some sectors, such as hospitality and retail, are doing it tough, in part due to the cost of living and other macro-economic factors. Both Council’s strategic projects and those led by the private sector that are in progress or due to start soon should bring relief in the form of vibrancy, spend and activity,” Crown said.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air


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