A small South Island Trust is doing big things to help its community get through.
A Glacier Country COVID-19 Impact report released in February shows 62% or more than 500 jobs have been lost and 16% of businesses have closed in Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers and the surrounding communities.
The report says more than 41 percent of Glacier Country residents who lost their jobs have moved away.
During what’s been an incredibly difficult time, the South Westland Emergency Trust (SERF) has gone over and above to support a community struggling with the lack of international visitors.
The Trust supports the community by arranging food bags, budgeting advice, helping get those in need the correct support from WINZ and just keeping an eye on each other.
“Our motto is to look after each other,” says Chairperson Graham Berry.
“COVID has had a massive impact here. We lost 150-200 people from Franz Josef, and that affects everyone – taking away people from the Fire Brigade, Civil Defence and St John,” says Graham.
Graham says that despite all the stress and upheaval, it’s been amazing how everyone in the community has stuck together.
“We have a very strong community - we get off our butts and do things like organising fun runs and quiz nights, and generally just keeping an eye on each other.”
The idea behind SERF developed in 2019, when locals pulled together to raise $12,000 for a local family devastated by a medical event.
“We though if that’s what we could do for one family what else could we do?” says Graham.
Less than a year later, COVID hit and the tourist towns were devastated with the closing of the borders.
Graham says the 11 trustees work hard to support the people in the region, and it’s very rewarding.
“It’s pretty cool when you go and help people, they are very relieved to get donations. We’ve all been through hard times, and will again, so whether it’s a donation or time, it all helps.”
Graham says the Australian travel bubble is bringing hope to the community.
“We has a great Easter, with lots of Kiwis making a real effort to come and see us. Winter is always a worry though as we have very few tourists.
“We are hoping to see a few Australian tourists soon - they are they are one of our biggest spenders. We even have a few Aussie jokes ready,” says Graham.
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