Buller wellbeing survey results reveal life is yet to return to normal for many

In 2022, we asked our community to “tell us how they’re going” through a Buller-wide wellbeing survey…and they did.

The Buller Flood Recovery team partnered with Opinions Market Research to deliver the wellbeing survey, funded by Department of Internal Affairs Lotteries. The research was conducted among three key groups of people, aged 15 and over, living in the Buller District, Westport and those living in red or yellow stickered properties. The survey was conducted between July and November of 2022.

The aim of the research was to provide insight into and measure residents’ wellbeing, the rebuild and recovery and challenges faced by the Buller community following the severe weather events of July 2021 and February 2022.

The survey results reflected the feeling that life has not returned to normal for many of those affected by the floods, and people are experiencing a lower quality of life and higher levels of stress, anxiety and isolation.

The key findings from the survey show that the extreme weather events impacted most people living in the Buller district, not only those in flooded homes.  The July 2021 event had the most severe impact.

Within the district, the two events had most impact on those in red or yellow stickered properties, and in Westport. Of respondents who were red or yellow stickered, 97% considered themselves to have been impacted in the July 2021 event. This compares with 71% of Buller residents and 83% in Westport. For the February 2022 event, that’s 83%, 64% and 66% respectively.

The survey highlighted a need for conversations around insurance, with only 38% of renters in flooded homes having sufficient contents insurance, and the need for better evacuation planning with 36% of Buller residents signalling difficulties in evacuating.

Results showed increases in mental and physical health issues are reducing people’s ability to cope, and this is rippling outwards affecting spouses/partners, children, extended whanau/friends and workplaces.

Buller residents indicated their reduced quality of life and ability to cope is also resulting in behaviour changes, especially around:

  • reduced levels of physical activity (29 – 42%),
  • putting on weight (25 – 27%),
  • drinking more alcohol (6 – 14%),
  • smoking more (6 – 7%),
  • increased drug use (2%)
  • increased gambling (1 – 3%).


For some, there is a sense of loneliness and isolation, with almost half of respondents saying they see fewer people than before the floods. This may also, at least in part, be due to Covid.

Those most likely to be languishing were living in stickered properties, but the survey also identified demographically that women, Māori, those in one adult households, those renting and those living with more extended whanau/friends than usual were among the most likely to be struggling.

Participants’ children’s levels of anxiety when it rains are highest among those in homes that were red or yellow stickered (44%) but this is also a common issue among children in Westport (36%) and in Buller District as a whole (30%).

Access to health services, in particular mental health is an issue. This includes the knowledge as to how to access mental health services, their availability and being able to afford to pay.

Among stickered homeowners who have not had repairs completed, which was around half, most (75%) plan to complete the repairs but only 59% have the financial means to do so.

Acting Buller District Council Chief Executive Rachel Townrow says “This report has helped us formalize what we have experienced over the last 19 months of recovery and will guide the development of future solutions. We have shared the report with Health, social services and relevant agencies for them to consider effective solutions in the community.

We will need all parts of the community to work together as we navigate long-term social and economic recovery and future climate change adaptation.  It is likely that our communities will be affected by extreme weather events in the future. What we do between now and then will determine how quickly we recover.”


Summary documents on the Survey results can be found below:

Buller Wellbeing Survey Executive Summary 12.2.23

Buller Wellbeing Survey Summary of Key Findings 12.2.23

Note to editors:

This research was conducted among three key groups of people, aged 15 and over, living in the Buller District and the findings have been analysed and reported for each:

  • Buller District residents: sample size 488 (includes those in the Westport and stickered)
  • Westport (Westport, Snodgrass and Carters Beach) residents: sample size 336 (includes those who were living in Westport who were stickered)
  • Stickered residents: those who were living in properties that were red or yellow stickered at the time of the July 2021 and/or February 2022 flooding events in the district: sample size 188

Note, some respondents will overlap between groups. The overall number of respondents was 488.


An initial exploratory qualitative key informant stage was conducted with the findings informing the quantitative research questions. The quantitative research methodology consisted of a mix of face to face, phone and online interviewing. The survey was available between 13 July and 6 November 2022.