Accessibility to social connections in Ōtautahi Christchurch through an indigenous lens : an evaluation of the #WellconnectedNZ project.
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The Covid-19 pandemic has brought to the foreground the importance of social connectedness for wellbeing, at the individual, community and societal level. Within the context of the local community, pro-connection facilities are fundamental to foster community development, resilience and public health. Through identifying the gap in social connectedness literature for Māori, this has created space for new opportunities and to reflect on what is already occurring in Ōtautahi. It is well documented that Māori experience unequal societal impacts across all health outcomes. Therefore, narrowing the inequities between Māori and non-Māori across a spectrum of dimensions is a priority. Evaluating the #WellconnectedNZ project, which explores the intersections between social connection and wellbeing is one way to trigger these conversations. This was achieved by curating a dissimilar set of community pro-connection facilities and organizing them into a Geographic Information System (GIS). Which firstly involved, the collecting and processing of raw data, followed by spatial analysis through creating maps, this highlighted the alignment between the distribution of places, population and social data. Secondly, statistical analysis focusing on the relationship between deprivation and accessibility. Finally, semi-structured interviews providing perceptions of community experience. This study describes findings following a kaupapa Māori research approach. Results demonstrated that, in general some meshblocks in Ōtautahi benefit from a high level of accessibility to pro-connection facilities; but with an urban-rural gradient (as is expected, further from the central business district (CBD) are less facilities). Additionally, more-deprived meshblocks in the Southern and Eastern suburbs of Christchurch have poorer accessibility, suggesting underlying social and spatial inequalities, likely exacerbated by Covid-19 and the Christchurch earthquakes. In this context, it is timely to (re)consider pro-connection places and their role in the development of social infrastructure for connected communities, in the community facility planning space. ‘We are all interwoven, we just need to make better connections’.