Problems grow as social gap widens

SUE FEA
Last updated 11:02 21/12/2012
Kenneth and Catherine Walker
SUE FEA/Fairfax NZ
OFF TO NELSON: Salvation Army Queenstown corps officers Kenneth and Catherine Walker get ready to say their farewells to Queenstown.

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Salvation Army Queenstown corps officers Kenneth and Catherine Walker first came to Queenstown from Hamilton as lay youth workers almost 14 years ago.

In January the high-profile community advocates will leave for a new posting as Nelson-Tasman Bays corps officers, both auxiliary captains with a wealth of experience under their belts.

The couple arrived with their young family but within a few years senior staff had left and the Walkers found themselves qualifying as ranked officers.

"Queenstown was like an oasis out of the desert. It was a breath of fresh air, " Mr Walker said.

Times have changed and needs have grown in the ensuing years with a distinct gap between wealth and poverty becoming more evident.

"There are a lot of affluent people but someone has made them affluent, " he said.

Service workers made a huge contribution to the successful functioning of the town, although it could be hard for them financially at times, Mrs Walker said.

Latest statistics showed 52 per cent of Queenstown's workforce were on work visas.

"That's half our work force. For some they are walking a fine line, " Mr Walker said.

The Salvation Army helped many migrant workers, especially if they lost a job and had no back-up savings and no family support locally. But the majority of clients were Kiwis, mostly single males.

"People say Queenstown is not an impoverished place but there is social poverty, a lack of social connections, " Mr Walker said.

"There's certainly the pub or bar scene but that can't be the solution. They then get drunk and do dumb stuff and end up in the court system."

The cause dearest to Mrs Walker's heart is family relationships, which can often be under pressure if parents have to work several jobs.

"But I get a lot of satisfaction in seeing the success stories and helping to improve these situations, " she said,

For the Walkers the growth of their Salvation Army Church in the resort has been also hugely rewarding.

They will dearly miss the people and the stunning surrounds they and their four children have called home since 1999.

A community farewell will be held for the Walkers at St Margaret's Presbyterian Church, Frankton, on Sunday at 1pm. Anyone is welcome.

Their replacements, Lieutenant Shaun and Captain Karen Baker from Pukekohe, take up their new posting on January 10.

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- The Southland Times

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