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Local Groups & Clubs

Steady hand at the helm of Social Services

Tony Marsters took up his position as Whitianga Social Services General Manager early in January.
 |  Dorothy Preece  | 

Tony Marsters

He might be best known as a charter-boat operator, or as the crew chief of the Waka Kai vessel, or with the Coastguard crew.

With both military and civilian background, he is a man well used to getting stuff done. From NCO in the Royal New Zealand Military Police, Tony moved on to civilian contracting, handling tactical logistics for the armed forces as well as world-wide agencies. Daily challenges, problem solving and organisational efficiency are his stock in trade.

“This job is very different”, Tony says. “Here the problems are on a more human scale. Even so, every day brings new challenges. It’s all about listening to people. Big social problems often start from small issues that fester if not addressed.” He believes in early intervention, sorting issues before they become unmanageable. “We canvassed our clients and community leaders extensively, to identify the issues that most concern people in Mercury Bay. With 36 percent of residents over the age of 65, care and support for the elderly and their mobility challenges came out close to the top, as did the lack of facilities for our youth.”

Since January, it’s been ‘all systems go’ with restructuring of staff roles to reflect the planned strategies. Jess Khouri has been appointed to the role of Community Facilitator for Elderly Support.

One new initiative to be rolled out immediately is ‘Total Mobility’. Waikato Regional Council has come on board with this nation-wide programme to subsidise taxi fares for those who meet the criteria as mobility-challenged. Applications will be handled through Whitianga Social Services and Mercury Bay Whiti Citi Cabs recently obtained the fully licensed mobility van to provide the specialised transport needed.

In terms of general support for the community with transport, the Centre has also taken delivery of a new community van, to be used anywhere around town when needs arise. Another new initiative is the Local Care Group alliance, bringing together local health professionals, District Health Board and other groups concerned with aged care, to help streamline delivery of support services. Quarterly huis are planned for this group, with Tuesday, 7 May scheduled as the first of these.

Planned extensions to the Social Services rooms in Cook Drive are also due to get underway very soon, providing among other things a much-needed dedicated youth space for the Youth Development Programme.

“We hope to put the spade in the ground on 27 May,” Tony says. “The plans also include a water storage tank, available to the community as a back-up in times of drought.”

He says there is a great interaction and a good feeling among the 52 staff and volunteers who are actively involved in delivering a wide raft of community support and counselling programmes.

“I feel humbled and privileged to be working with the support of such a great team,” Tony says.