COVID-19 insights series Impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of rural communities in Aotearoa New Zealand

Published: February 2023

Te Hiringa Mahara is producing a series of short reports during 2022 and 2023 to add our collective understanding of the wellbeing impacts of the pandemic and to provide key insights on wellbeing areas or populations of focus.

Impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of rural communities in Aotearoa New Zealand 

In this report, we show that rural communities face different wellbeing challenges to urban Aotearoa, and the pandemic has presented a range of added stresses.

The report also shows the following:

  • The pandemic exacerbated rural communities’ challenges accessing support, workforces and resources due to distance from main centres and digital connectivity
  • Rural communities are diverse, and the pandemic has affected different parts of rural communities differently. Farmers experience different stresses and challenges than other parts of the rural community
  • With a higher rural population, rural issues are disproportionately Māori issues. A uniquely Māori response to some of the pandemic’s challenges has supported wellbeing, and should be recognised and strengthened
  • Iwi, hapū and marae became centres of excellence for responding to the pandemic. Along with other community hubs, they became a place where resources could be distributed, planning could take place and where people could find connections.

The nature of the impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of rural communities has evolved, and will continue to evolve, over the course of the pandemic – life has not 'returned to normal' and the need for support has not gone away. It is also important to recognise that rural communities are not one monolithic group, and that rural issues disproportionately affect Māori.

We call for greater understanding of and research into the diverse needs and experiences of rural communities, and greater involvement of rural communities in planning and decision-making, particularly with rural Māori.

Read other reports in the Covid-19 insights series