Council Chief Executive David Langford hoisting the Mates flag with Mates staff Graeme Haxton, Hayden Griffiths and Victoria McArthur, and Rachel Bowen (right) of WorkSafe. Photo / Bevan Conley
Whanganui District Council is the first local authority in New Zealand to form a partnership with an organization supporting the welfare of construction workers.
Mates in Construction (Mates) provides training and support services to promote mental health and suicide awareness among construction workers.
The construction industry had the highest male suicide rate of any occupational group in 2019, and Mates was trained to raise awareness and provide training and support within the profession.
Council chief executive David Langford said that given the level of interaction with industry, a partnership made sense.
“The council is a big player in the construction industry in Whanganui,” he said.
“We work with contractors on our projects, local companies maintain all of our facilities and our building inspectors are on site with local builders every day.
“Partnering with Mates means that council staff will be able to support builders and tradespeople in Whanganui who may be struggling. This is particularly important now that inflation and supply chain issues are making life again more difficult for the sector.”
Langford said Mates would also look to work on council-led projects to ensure good mental health supports were spread across the wider Whanganui area.
“We are delighted to have formalized the partnership this week and to take this important step as a board.”
Mates chief executive Victoria McArthur was in Whanganui with field agents Hayden Griffiths and Graeme Haxton to welcome the council as a “premium” partner.
“This is the first local government entity to become a partner and it really shows how forward-thinking this region is,” she said.
“Wanganui District Council has a long-term strategic plan to develop infrastructure that provides a foundation for building strong and resilient communities.”
McArthur said the vision of wellness for everyone involved and creating communities of people who could support each other aligned perfectly with the values that drove the Mates program.
The organization was launched in New Zealand in November 2019 and has been adopted from Australia, where high suicide rates among construction workers had sparked the need for industry support.
“The construction industry continues to have the highest number of suicides of any industry in this country, so it’s great to have our first council taking on this leadership role,” McArthur said.
“It’s an exciting undertaking to be involved in and we look forward to working with David and the team at Whanganui.”
Rachel Bowen, WorkSafe’s Build Engagement Manager, also attended the launch of the partnership.
Langford said WorkSafe supported the partnership and it was great to have Bowen at launch to add that endorsement.
“It’s further recognition that the board is engaging in the right way,” he said.
Whanganui’s partnership launch included the hoisting of the Mates flag on the council’s second mast on its Guyton St.
Since its launch in New Zealand, Mates has onboarded more than 34,000 workers in the general awareness training program at 687 sites.