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Health and recreation

Franklin encourages cycling to work and play

Franklin shares many of the same traffic congestion issues as their neighbours in Auckland. One way the Franklin District Council is trying to improve the situation is by encouraging locals to use foot or pedal power for short journeys.

Information from the 2006 Census showed that 51 percent of Franklin district workers drove a private motor vehicle to work on census day, compared with only 0.4 percent who travelled by bicycle. This is less than one-quarter of the national average. The council saw plenty of scope for increasing the number of residents that could cycle to work or on other short journeys.

In early 2008, the council hired a road safety travel planner to visit schools in the area. The hope is to encourage children and their parents to walk to school, ride a bike, or take the bus. By 2009, the district will have a new network of bicycle lanes and footpaths placed along popular routes. The community will benefit from reduced traffic congestion as well as improved health and well-being.

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Low cost services for Marlborough seasonal workers

Marlborough is a well-established wine-producing region. The wine industry is seasonal, and causes an influx of temporary workers over the summer months. This peak in population, combined with the changing characteristics of its usually resident population, was putting pressure on the region's healthcare providers.

The Marlborough District Council used 2006 Census data to determine what the characteristics and size of the peak population were. By comparing the census usually resident population count with the March census night count, the council found that about 8 percent of the 46,000 people on census night were visitors to the region. Those who don't usually live in an area are generally ineligible for certain healthcare benefits, and potentially have different healthcare needs compared with usual residents.

Information from the census also showed there was a high population of overseas visitors on relatively low incomes. To better service this population, a recently established community trust has proposed the creation of a low-cost healthcare clinic. Also, thanks to the census information about age, sex and ethnicity, established healthcare providers now provide services that are more relevant to the community.

Less pressure on GPs and better-tailored services benefit the whole community, while visitors to Marlborough can now expect more affordable healthcare services.

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Recreational facilities for Christchurch's diverse communities

Providing recreational facilities for its local communities is an important aim of the Christchurch City Council. The council recognises that communal open spaces encourage a sense of community pride and unity.

The council needs to keep up with the changing needs of its communities. Using census information about age structure, ethnic groups and access to private motor vehicles, the council was able to create a profile of each community. It then spoke to residents to get their input into the park and recreational facilities they would like near their homes.

The Avonhead-Riccarton South area (Avonhead, Upper Riccarton, Riccarton West, Riccarton, and Riccarton South) has a high proportion of Asian ethnic group residents, around a quarter of the local community compared with a national average of only 9 percent.

The council approached the Asian community for feedback, and found that they like to play team sports on an informal basis. The council then ensured local parks had basketball courts and permanent goal posts on fields, so residents could just turn up and play.

Responding to community needs has fostered more participation by locals in council events and improved the care of shared facilities. Encouraging locals to get outside and have fun has the added benefits of improved physical and mental health.

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Regional plans for a healthy future

Wellington is fortunate to have numerous regional parks and forests that are used for a wide variety of activities. The Greater Wellington Regional Council is always keen to ensure these parks meet the changing needs of local residents and visitors to the region.

The council is using information from the 2006 Census to plan for its long-term regional parks recreation study. Current and historical population trends in the region help to project population changes, and to address the potential future use and preferences of regional parks. The council hopes that by tailoring the design of regional parks in the region, they will be even more widely used by the community.

Information from the 2006 Census revealed that Churton Park has the highest number of children under the age of five in Wellington City, at just over 500. By knowing where there are large proportions of young families, the regional council may encourage them to use its parks and forests by developing suitable tracks, improving links with local council parks, and improving facilities. This is aimed to improve residents’ fitness and quality of life.

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Remote healthcare in the Sounds

The Marlborough region includes the larger towns of Blenheim and Picton and stretches north into the beautiful but remote Marlborough Sounds. The Sounds are sparsely populated, but numbers increase substantially in summer as visitors occupy holiday homes and baches.

Out of season, the Sounds population doesn’t support a full-time GP practice or medical clinic. The seasonal increase in population can put stress on local health services, so the Marlborough District Council needed to find a way to deliver health services to a changing and sometimes isolated population.

Census data helped to reveal the number of occupied and unoccupied dwellings, including those in remote areas. It also revealed the make up of the community including age, sex and ethnicity as well as population numbers.

Comparing census night information with usual residence information from the 2006 Census helped the council and healthcare service providers to plan more effectively. In response to the census findings, a pilot scheme is underway to provide more flexible healthcare services to Marlborough Sounds’ residents.

One initiative includes nurses travelling by water taxi to remote parts of the Sounds to provide half-day clinics, administering vaccinations and treating minor complaints. Locals and visitors are pleased with this innovative solution to a seasonal problem. 

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The challenge of increasing Clutha's fitness

The South Otago district of Clutha is an area of great natural beauty. The Clutha District Council wants locals to make the most of its outdoors but recognises that it also needs to provide indoor options. To ensure the healthy future of the district, the council wants to encourage residents to increase their physical activity. One way to do this is to ensure they have access to recreational facilities in the area.

The council used 2006 Census information to identify changes in the population over time, and therefore the need for present and future community facilities. They found that the median age of residents in the Clutha District is 39 years, compared with New Zealand's median of 36 years. Despite the ageing population, they also found a higher than average proportion of young people under the age of 15.

These statistics, alongside a very active community driven consultation, confirmed that plans for a recreation centre should go ahead. Balclutha, the largest community in Clutha, has been chosen as the site for the new centre. It will boast multipurpose covered netball courts and squash courts to meet the needs of the younger generation. Swimming, walking and aqua-jogging are low-impact activities well suited to older generations.

Swimming pools have become a point of discussion in the district and $3 million has also been approved for a footpath strategy to improve walking options.

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Walking and cycling in Southland

Because Invercargill is spread out over a large flat area, Environment Southland saw the opportunity to encourage locals to walk and cycle. To do this, the available network of walkways and cycling routes had to be extended and improved. Concerns for the safety and convenience of pedestrians and cyclists were also considered.

Information from the 2006 Census is being used by the Southland District Council to support applications for funding from Land Transport New Zealand and the Department of Conservation. Figures from the census show that 17 percent of Southland region's households have access to three or more vehicles, which is above the national average. The proportion for households with access to two vehicles is also above average.

The greater the access to motor vehicles, the greater the potential of conflict between vehicles and cyclists and pedestrians, particularly along main routes such as State Highway Six. Working with the local council, Environment Southland has already constructed 2.8km of walkways along the Waihopai River in Invercargill and will be extending these in the future.

These walkways are encouraging locals to cycle and walk more, whether for exercise and recreation (like at the annual Wai Tri triathlon that uses the pathways), or simply as a shortcut route. Residents and visitors are already enjoying the benefits of the walking and cycling strategy and can look forward to further upgrades, and new cycle and walkway routes in the future. 

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