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Record final funding boost for Southern Lakes mental wellbeing initiatives

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Te Hau Toka Southern Lakes Wellbeing Group’s Connecting Communities fund has gone out with a bang, putting a record $100,000 towards community-led wellbeing activities and events across the Southern Lakes region in the next few months to help build social connections, mental health support and resilience.

The eighth and final funding round was spread across 117 groups, each receiving up to $1,000 to facilitate activities that help people connect, look after themselves and each other, and have some fun.  

Since launching the Connecting Communities fund in November 2021 as part of its efforts to combat the ongoing mental health impacts of COVID-19, Te Hau Toka has distributed more than half a million dollars to 556 groups across Queenstown, Wānaka, Cromwell, and Te Anau/Fiordland.

With the group’s Government funding finishing on 30 June, Te Hau Toka Chair Adell Cox expressed her heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in the initiative.

“Seeing the positivity Connecting Communities has generated in the face of adversity, how much our Southern Lakes communities care about each other, and their innovative ideas to combat local mental health and wellbeing challenges, has been incredibly inspiring and rewarding,” she said.

“We’ve worked on a range of initiatives with community partners and our independent evaluation, which will be released next month, shows that the Connecting Communities has been one of the most successful.

“The key is giving people the power to find their own solutions because they’re best placed to know what their community needs and what works for them.  Connecting Communities has just helped make them happen by providing a little bit of money to a lot of people every few months.

“While we’re really sad to see it wind up, we believe that this microfunding model has demonstrated strong proof of concept for organisations across New Zealand looking for community-led programmes to support mental wellbeing and disaster recovery,” said Ms Cox.

A record number of applications was received for Round 8 so Te Hau Toka focused on spreading its remaining funding as widely as possible to ensure equity and best community outcomes as well as prioritising extra support for those most vulnerable through the winter months.

A new Queenstown-focused Salvation Army initiative led by Community Ministries Director and highly respected community advocate Andrew Wilson will use localised street parties as a way of strengthening neighbourhoods, particularly in areas experiencing a higher-than-average turnover of residents.

“Housing is the biggest issue facing the Queenstown community and it causes a great deal of stress, uncertainty and transiency,” said Andrew. “There are a number of initiatives underway to address this very complex issue but, in the meantime, we as a community have the opportunity to rally together and foster those qualities that enhance individual and community resilience.

“It’s a chance to celebrate and have some fun together but our purpose is really to partner with very localised neighbourhoods who are keen to foster community spirit but need help with planning and resources to run an event. We’ll use our experience, connections and relationships to facilitate the planning process and work on efficiencies to reduce costs and help make these events sustainable for future opportunities.”

Kate Murray, from Community Link, is delighted to receive support for “WanaSoup”, a new winter warmer initiative at the Wānaka Community Hub which will run every Wednesday lunchtime from 5 June to 28 August. 

“People are doing it tough at the moment, both in terms of wellbeing and cost of living, and it’s important for us all to look after each other. WanaSoup will provide a great opportunity to get together and strengthen our sense of community over the winter months.  Volunteers from St Columba Anglican Church and others will prepare and serve different soups and anyone in the community who wants to come will be offered a warm welcome, a cup of hot soup and the chance to make new friends over table talk and games."

Connecting Communities Round 8 recipients included the KUMA Māori Business Network Kai & Korero; Age Concern’s Winter Warmer and Spring Fling; Spark the Change Youth Brainstorming Sessions in Queenstown; Queenstown, Wānaka and Cromwell Menz/Womens Sheds; a Community Farm Day in Kingston; the Glenorchy Winter Warmer; Queenstown Citizens Advice Bureau Volunteer Dinner; Queenstown community inter-agency hui; Dirt Town Queens Winter Rides; Central Otago Pasifika Siva Zumba classes; Parent to Parent support groups; Neurodiversity whānau support groups; the MINT Mid-Winter Community Ball in Wānaka; SLDA Bushcraft Skills; Lake Hāwea Community Centre’s outreach programme; Fiordland Winter Wellness Cooking Classes; the Fiordland Co-Working Group, and a range of Matariki and community association events. 

A full recipient list is available online.


The funding for Connecting Communities was made possible through the Government’s Tourism Communities: Support, Recovery and Re-Set Plan funding and has been administered by Te Whatu Ora Southern with the guidance of Te Hau Toka Southern Lakes Wellbeing Group.

The Government fund was focussed on the tourism-dependent Queenstown Lakes and Fiordland communities, however Te Hau Toka also included Cromwell in its catchment due to the number of people working in the Queenstown Lakes area.  The funding has enabled Te Hau Toka to help address some of the negative effects of COVID-19 through a range of initiatives designed to support, promote and protect the mental wellbeing of people living in Queenstown, Wānaka, Cromwell and Te Anau/Fiordland. 

For more information about Te Hau Toka and its members, please visit