Taupō district residents love the area's natural environment and climate. They value the parks, reserves and sport and recreation opportunities and they mostly feel connected to friends, whanau and their community.

But they worry about jobs, they're concerned about how the area is growing and how to plan for it, the cost of living is a problem and drug and alcohol abuse and environmental concerns are also a worry.

All that and more is detailed in the 2018 Vital Signs research project in the Taupō District, which was released at Wairakei Resort this week.

Commissioned by the Geyser Community Foundation, Acorn Foundation and Eastern Bay Community Foundation and produced by Key Research, the report looked at the social, environmental, cultural and economic wellbeing of the Taupō district's communities, identifying strengths, and areas for improvement according to local people.

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It surveyed 639 Taupō district residents across four key 'wellbeing' areas - social and cultural, health and wellbeing, economic and environmental - and asked them for their perceptions of 14 indicators.

Geyser's chairman Pat Brown said this is the first time the research has been carried out in the Taupō district.

"It provides us with an independent understanding of our local community's challenges and priorities, and will be refreshed every three years."

Mr Brown said the report showed growing confidence across a range of sectors.

"These are exciting times for the Taupō District but at the same time there are some significant challenges.

"We live in a beautiful part of the country so it's no surprise that the things we love most about living here are the natural environment, climate and air quality. Local residents believe we are performing best in the areas of sports, recreation, arts and culture.

"The top five things people loved about living here (in order) are natural environment, climate and air quality; recreation, parks and reserves; connectedness - friends, whanau, community, support; personal safety - feeling safe; and walkability and cycling infrastructure.

"In contrast, the areas the community think are being performed least well are reducing inequity, housing, supporting young adults and ensuring the Taupō district is a safe place for all residents to live (as distinct from residents feeling safe themselves). The main priorities for improving safety are addressing alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence and child abuse."

Mr Brown said the population of Taupō district is growing, leading to concerns about employment availability, and increases in housing and rent prices.

"Residents are also thinking about what further growth means for the area and for the environment, and how to best plan for that growth. At the same time, social issues, such as drug abuse, continue to impact communities in the district."

One of the four areas that scored lowest was safety. Respondents saw the top priorities as reducing drug and alcohol abuse, reducing domestic violence and reducing child abuse.
On the positive side, arts and culture and sports and recreation both ranked highest.

Overall, the Taupō district was evaluated as "performing modestly or slightly better across most topics explored".

Community Foundation executive officer Annette Burgess said the information in the Vital Signs report would be used by local organisations to identify priorities and decide where funding was most needed.

Vital Signs 2018 for the Taupō District was a collaborative project between the Geyser Community Foundation, BayTrust, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Taupō District Council.

The Geyser Community Foundation is a philanthropic foundation covering Rotorua and Taupo. Donations and bequests are invested in perpetuity and the investment income distributed to local causes and charities. It currently has $4.5 million invested and another $12.5m pledged in bequests. Last year it distributed $1.2m.