Behind the scenes of every small town in New Zealand, there’s an army of volunteers and workers who keep the wheels turning.
In Taupo there are over 80 different organisations dedicated to helping people with different aspects of their lives – whether that’s budgeting services, health support groups, youth workers, drug and alcohol counsellors or those offering relationship advice.
The Taupo Council of Social Services is the ‘glue’ that connects these different groups together. Since 1993 they have hosted monthly networking meetings and provided the chance for people to collaborate within their own areas of interest.
Co-ordinator Andrew Lilburn says people (and organisations) tend to operate in a vacuum unless they have the opportunity to meet others who are doing similar work to themselves.
“There are lots of youth workers operating in Taupo so we organise a dedicated networking meeting just for them each month. At our general meetings we often have a guest speaker talking about a particular service or issue they’re having. Sometimes we have a round table discussion where people can share what’s going on in their organisation and what issues they’re coming across.”
Three Year Boost
While many member groups receive Government funding for the contracted services they provide, the council itself depends entirely on philanthropic donations.
BayTrust is a major supporter and has just approved a $35,000 annual grant for the next three years (total $105,000) to help the council continue to connect and support Taupo’s social services.
“A substantial part of our funding is now in place for the next three years so that’ll make a big difference,” Andrew says.
“It’s awesome to have BayTrust recognise the work we are doing. It enables us to do some proper planning and get some forward momentum going. With stop/start funding it’s hard to do that and we appreciate the faith BayTrust has placed in us.”
“We want to be responsive to community initiatives and support them whenever they come up. At the moment emergency housing is a big issue in Taupo, as it is nationwide. There’s potential to help facilitate solutions around that.
“We also have aspirations to help groups work more collaboratively together. That’s often hard to do because groups have to compete against one another for funding. That slows down the ability of people to work together. But we’re keen to take on the challenge of helping people satisfy the community’s needs in a more efficient way.”
The council would also like to hold an expo-style open day in Taupo this year to help showcase the different social agencies that exist in the town and what they can do to help.
“Often people don’t know what’s available until they’re in a crisis and they’re struggling to find out. The more people know who’s in the community and what help is available, the better.”