At the perfect time, just months before the Covid-19 pandemic affected both migrant workers and locals, trust was formed to help Southwestlanders suffer.
The South Westland Emergency Relief Trust (SERF) was established in September 2019 as a charitable trust to support families between Ross and Jackson Bay.
The area is isolated and people are dependent on each other, says team member Marj Vermaat.
“Our community in South Westland is really supportive and really helping others.”
By 2019, locals have realized that they need a structure to facilitate this and raise funds for access when needed. They knew little about how foresight this was.
In late March 2020, the international Covid-19 pandemic closed the New Zealand border, sent New Zealand to a seven-week blockade and trapped migrant workers.
Marge states that civil defense is “great” and that SERF has worked with it to direct migrant workers to support and inform. A food parcel funded by civil defense that many lost their jobs due to the crisis and was distributed by SERF.
Many of these workers are now returning to their home countries, but locals are having a harder time than ever before. The effects of the crisis continue.
“At this point, it feels like a kind of takeover, but it’s not the only one,” says Marj.
Providing practical support
Since its inception, the trust has supported more than 100 Southwestland individuals and families, providing financial support, medical equipment, firewood, coal, food and other practical items.
It can be difficult to ask for help if you don’t always have something to give, ”says Marj.
Trust prevents people from stumbling in such situations.
Assistance includes those for people with medical needs and no health insurance. For example, a mother broke her leg and SERF provided firewood and a voucher to the person who took care of her children.
The trust supports existing services and charities and works with companies such as Foodstuffs and Franz Josef’s FourSquare to mitigate difficulties.
According to Marge, SERF is run by volunteers and is funded by funding, donations from individuals and businesses on the West Coast, and grants from the National Tindal Foundation.
“We thank all those who fund and donate to charities like ourselves. The aloha you show is immeasurable,” said SERF’s Facebook.
Creation of sustainability
Other organizations are also part of maintaining life in South Westland.
Many tourism jobs have been lost due to the closure of the border with New Zealand, but both the Nature Conservation Agency (DOC) and the Zero Invasion Predators (ZIP) are offering people new jobs.
Locally, DOC’s Jobs for Nature program focuses primarily on contractors who did not have enough jobs due to the downturn in the tourism industry, according to Marge. Contracts prevent employees from becoming redundant.
Therefore, there is a big shift from tourism to natural work, “she says.
According to the DOC website, Jobs for Nature will help revitalize the community through nature-based employment and stimulate the economy after Covid-19.
Meanwhile, according to ZIP information, the entity will utilize the workforce and technology of “ground boots” developed to permanently remove possums, stoats and mice from 100,000 hectares in the southwest.
Despite difficult times, South Westland survives through innovation, generosity, and people who help people.
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