Rotorua is crying out for urgent help to deal with a lack of mental health support, insecure housing and inadequate incomes.

That's according to the State of our Communities Report, a report released today on the extent of the concerns about the lack of affordable housing, mental health services, loss of income and employment.

The Salvation Army interviewed 564 residents and 14 key community leaders from Rotorua, Johnsonville and Queenstown for the report which focused on mental health, housing, income and employment with a Covid-19 recovery and election 2020 lens.

Rotorua was chosen due to its significant Māori population.

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Concerns around housing, particularly homelessness, dominated many of the responses in Rotorua.

There are urgent cries to address a lack of mental health support, insecure housing and inadequate incomes. Photo / File
There are urgent cries to address a lack of mental health support, insecure housing and inadequate incomes. Photo / File

Other issues were often connected to housing problems, including gangs, addictions, access to mental health and unemployment.

Some of these issues existed before Covid-19, but the crisis added to existing pressures, the report said.

Locals identified social and emergency housing and the lack of employment opportunities as key pressure points.

Homelessness was particularly prominent in Rotorua and housing issues included unaffordable rentals or private housing.

Mental health services were also a top concern as people experienced the impact of stress, anxiety and hardship as a result of the economic downturn.

Existing mental health issues were amplified by job losses, social isolation, lack of income and other lockdown-related social challenges.

This then highlighted the lack of mental health services, and locals across the three areas pointed to specific mental health issues for children and youth emerging from the pandemic.

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Māori-led initiatives, particularly through Te Arawa, were found to be significant.

"With nearly 40 per cent of the Rotorua population identifying as Māori, the importance of Māori-led solutions to complex issues like housing, homelessness and employment cannot be underestimated.

"Recovery from this recession from a Māori perspective in Rotorua could help model what recovery should look like in other communities," the report said.

More than 35 per cent of those surveyed had experienced some form of income loss due to Covid-19.

Locals who had not been impacted financially expressed concern for family members at risk of losing employment or income.

One business owner said they had lost a lot of work and were still trying to recover.

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"After such a long time off, our teenage son decided school wasn't for him and didn't return.

"Mentally it took a toll because we stressed so much about our business and children and we are still trying to come back from that," they said.

Salvation Army social policy advocate Ana Ika said recovery from the impacts of the pandemic needed to include local communities and address existing and emerging critical social and health issues.

It also needed to "build on the strength already found in these communities".

Locals across the three areas wanted to focus on and discuss what recovery from the recession looked like.

Their ideas included revitalising shopping centres, diversifying economic activity, and increasing investment in health and social support services.

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Employment and incomes, housing and mental health services were issues most often named by respondents as their key concerns related to the election.

Rotorua's Salvation Army uniquely offers transitional housing as well as church services, foodbanks, social work, and counselling.