Waikato Vital Signs is a tool that can mobilise the power of community knowledge for greater local impact. It comes from the internationally recognised Vital Signs programme and measures social, environmental, cultural and economic trends in the Waikato, and our attitudes towards those trends.


Our Waikato is a place of powerful possibilities, surrounded by breath-taking natural beauty. We are proud of our place and love to call the Waikato our home, but ‘our place’ means very different things, depending on who and where we are. Many of us are healthy, employed, and live in safe, comfortable homes.


Our community is our village: it takes all of us together to provide for the children living in it. To thrive, children need healthy and safe homes, a good education, and to belong to the world around them. Risk areas for 0-14 year olds in our region include increased numbers living in high deprivation, lower rates of early childhood education participation and more reported and substantiated child abuse cases than the national average.


Our manaakitanga, or caring, speaks to the strength and health of our communities. There are more of us involved in unpaid volunteering and caring work in our region than nationally, providing essential support and connections between people. As our population is ageing, these networks are increasingly important. Acknowledging and developing our volunteers and carers is a priority.



Togetherness. Kotahitanga. Unity. These are at the heart of our community vision. We want to connect with others and work together to affect real change in our communities. Community spirit, connection, vibrancy and safety are important to us. Voter turnout is low and crime rates are higher than the national average, yet almost all of us know someone we can rely on in a time of need.


A creative community is important to us. Our diversity and vibrancy are the top two things we love most about our region. Culture forms a large part of our creativity, allowing us to celebrate and develop the uniqueness of our community and region. We want inclusive, accessible, collaborative initiatives and events that reflect our cultural heritage and support our increasingly multi-cultural population. 


We have come together as mana whenua1 to participate in and contribute to the wellbeing of our community. We speak as equal decision-making partners, with an active voice in the future of the Waikato. We share a common lived experience, both past and present. From a long history of seeking redress for the devastating effects of colonisation and Raupatu2, to now - reviving Te Reo, co-managing Waikato Te Awa and building on our economic assets. Many of us have settled with the Crown, while others have yet to walk that path; together we will strengthen our future cultural, social and economic wellbeing.


The Waikato is the fourth largest regional economy in New Zealand, providing wealth and opportunity for many, but not for all. Our community’s biggest economic concern is housing: its affordability, availability and most importantly its quality. Coming together with whaanau and friends in a safe and healthy place we can call home is something we all believe everyone should be able to do.


We have a vibrant student city at the heart of our region, with a range of educational opportunities available, but access to education can be a challenge for people in rural areas. Our educational outcomes are improving, but are slightly worse than the national average. Our community wants more varied educational pathways, recognising that skills and knowledge come from both formal education and training, as well as practical and life experience.


What we do right now, our kaitiakitanga or guardianship of our land, air and waters, will determine the future world we leave for our children and their children. We have a shared love for the Waikato, Waipa and Piako rivers. We want to swim in clean waters, enjoy a healthy environment, and see native plants and animals in abundance.


For the 100,000 people, or nearly 40% of us who live outside Hamilton, access to healthcare can be a significant barrier. People want to see more local services available in rural centres, reducing isolation and strengthening their local communities. Providing everyone equal access to healthcare services, addressing rising obesity and meeting the needs of our ageing population are top of mind in our community.


Our sports grounds and recreation centres are community hubs, providing resources for people of all ages and abilities to get active on a regular basis, improving our health, social wellbeing and community life. We have a wide range of recreation opportunities, including community sports facilities, nature walks, the Waikato, Waipa and Piako rivers, and numerous lakes, harbours and coastline for waka ama and water sports.