Helping the community help itself in Te Anau

Te Anau – stunningly beautiful, the gateway to Fiordland, and a long way from anywhere. 

“Invercargill’s our main base, and it's a 150 kilometres trip down there one way.  Gore is just short of a hundred and fifty kms away. Milford Sound is a hundred kms from Te Anau,” says Lyn Tee, Fiordland Health Trust Chair. 

“So, it's always been a community that's had to look after its own because of the isolation. It's one of those communities that helps themselves to help others.” 

And it was that isolation that saw the Fiordland Health Centre, owned by the community through the Fiordland Health Trust, open fifteen years ago. 

“It has treatment rooms, consulting rooms, waiting room, and we have other tenants in there as well. We've got an optometrist, a physio and the district nurses… it covers lots of different things you wouldn't get in a normal medical practice. Plus, the doctors here do a lot of search and rescue work and things like that.  So, it services the whole area from Milford Sound and halfway to Tuatapere. It's just kind of grown with the community really.” 

But by 2019, that growth saw the Fiordland Medical Practice, which rents part of the centre, approach the Trust about extending the building. And, after a few years of planning, construction got underway last year. 

Meridian proudly contributed to the development and construction of the expanded health centre in recognition of the long history between Te Anau and the company’s Manapōuri power scheme.  

“Te Anau has been part of our story for more than half a century, and we’re looking forward to being a part of this community for a long time to come,” says Meridian Chief Executive Neal Barclay. “This is one way of showing our appreciation to a community that’s been so generous and supportive to Meridian for many years.” 

Lyn says the funding provided by the company’s Power Up Community Fund is a powerful way of supporting Te Anau and its many community groups. 

“I've lived here for 30 years, and the power station's always been here. It's part of the infrastructure around us, part of the community in lots of ways, so it's nice to see Meridian putting money into those little community groups. The Scout group might only want $500 to fix something, but it's money they don't have to raise out of the community.”  

With a number of young doctors in town, and a desire for more visiting specialists from Invercargill, she says the new centre’s just what the doctor ordered. 

“I’m pretty proud. We’ve never had any money from central or local government, we've never received any money from the health department. It's all been community funding or community money that's built this building. So, it does belong to the community in every sense of the word.  

“Everyone appreciates it. You hear horror stories of people elsewhere waiting two or three weeks for an appointment. If we have to wait for two days, everyone feels hard done by. In that respect, we've probably got one of the best medical services in Southland!” 

Fiordland Health Centre

Fiordland Health Centre treatment room

L-R: Lyn Tee Fiordland Health Trust Chair; Richard Wason FHT Trustee; Jill Tauri, Meridian Power-up Fund Trustee; Pam Applegarth FHT Administrator; Carol Roberts FHT Vice Chair; Diane Ridley FHT Trustee; Daryl Parkes FHT Trustee & Blair Falconer Meridian Electricity Supply Mgr.