What is Vital Signs?

Vital Signs® is a tool used by community foundations across the world to understand community perceptions of the place where they live. It looks at the social, cultural, health, environmental and economic wellbeing of the area and identifies the key priorities according to residents. This information is then used by local organisations to identify and prioritise areas for funding.  

Acorn published our first Vital Signs report in 2015, and a second report in 2018 which covered the whole Bay of Plenty region. In 2020, we partnered with TECT, Bay Trust and Tauranga City Council to create ‘Vital Update - Tauranga’, which focused on the city of Tauranga instead of the whole region, to allow us to dive deeper into understanding the needs of our city’s community. 

In May 2022 we launched a Vital Signs® Youth Report. This report is the culmination of months of research, which sought to understand how Acorn Foundation funding can best support local providers to deliver the resources our rangatahi (young people) in the WBOP need to live lives that they value. 

The report uses data collected and analysed by Acorn and local researchers Growth Development, and provides a rich insight into the quality of life, sense of belonging, prospects for successful transition from education into employment, health, and aspirations of our youth aged 14-24.  

Most recently, we partnered up again with TECT, Bay Trust and Tauranga City Council to create 'Whakahou Taketake Vital Update – Tauranga 2023.' This research project aims to better understand the communities within Tauranga.  

Read more about these reports and their findings below.

2023 Whakahou Taketake Vital Update – Tauranga

Vital Update – Tauranga 2023 is a research project that aims to better understand the communities within Tauranga – who makes them up, and what their needs, wants and aspirations for their city are.

Acorn Foundation, TECT, BayTrust and Tauranga City Council partnered on this research project so that together we can work towards creating a better future for the residents living in our city. 

Findings

Our focus for Vital Update – Tauranga 2023 was to hear from a diverse range of voices.

We asked our residents what they love about living in Tauranga and what things they would change. We asked about our residents’ housing and standards of living; their social wellbeing and feelings of connectedness; their accessibility to services and facilities, event attendance and transport; mental health; and their perception of safety in their neighbourhoods. 

We made a deliberate and conscious effort to speak to people from a range of priority groups including: 

  • Youth (13-24 years) 
  • Parents & caregivers
  • Māori 
  • Pacific communities 
  • Ethnic communities 
  • Ageing population (65+ years)  
  • Disabled people (including carers) 
  • People experiencing homelessness
  • Rainbow community 
  • Children (5-12 years)

We received input from over 6,000 Tauranga residents (13+ years) with an additional 1,100 responses from children (5-12 years). To those who participated in the survey, thank you for sharing your voice. We have heard from all walks of life, and this has ensured that the data reflects our unique and diverse community here in Tauranga. 

The representative findings reaffirmed some already established understandings, notably that people want a revitalised city centre and traffic continues to be a critical issue. However, the data shows that since 2020, there is an increase in the number of people getting out of their cars to get to school and work. Eighteen percent of people walk or jog to get to work, compared to five percent in 2020, and 17 percent cycle, compared to six percent in 2020. 

In addition, the survey data shows:

  • A significant rise of survey participants who have experienced family violence – four percent in 2020 to 15 percent in 2023.
  • The popularity of vaping among younger demographics – 23 percent of those aged 13-18 years and 34 percent aged 19-24 years have vaped in the past 6 months, and 12 percent of 13-18 years vaped within the last week.
  • Over half of people renting homes are paying upwards of $400 per week, and 36 percent of those surveyed do not have the savings or income to get by for more than a month should an unexpected expense arise.
  • 17 percent of survey participants in Tauranga are currently experiencing mental health issues.

All this data will be used to inform and influence our projects and plans – it will help shape your city’s future.  

See the dashboards and reports to view all the results here.

We partnered with BayTrust, TECT and Tauranga City Council on this research because we each have a huge stake in the area. Serving the community is at the heart of what we do, and our actions and decisions have an impact on all the people of Tauranga. We are all committed to improving the wellbeing of our community, so it makes sense to team up. 

Working together allowed our survey to reach more people and encouraged a variety of different conversations. It enabled us to draw on each organisation’s expertise in driving community research. 

Having shared data to work from will help us increase our impact as we’ll all be singing from the same song sheet. This will be a strong basis for a more coordinated approach across our organisations to formulate and deliver great community outcomes. 

Independent local company Key Research conducted the survey and analysed the data. They prepared the final reports, which provide a sample of the data that is available. These reports, together with the dashboards, can be used by the partner organisations to guide decision-making around projects and grants. 

We’re not keeping this information to ourselves; it is yours to use, while we keep to the highest standards of data privacy, whether you belong to a community organisation or community-driven business, or even if you’re just someone who wants to see Tauranga thrive.    

By using the dashboards you can dig deep into the results in the area/s that are of interest to you.  

All the partner organisations are planning on actively using the results of the research and intend to continue with this type of research every three years. 

If you have any questions about this research, please reach out – we are happy to help: 

Acorn Foundation: info@acornfoundation.org.nz 
Tauranga City Council (Community Development team): com.dev@tauranga.govt.nz 
Key Research NZ Ltd: info@keyresearch.co.nz 

View the reports and explore the dashboards here.

2022 Vital Signs – Youth

On 2 May 2022 we launched a new Vital Signs® Youth Report. 

This report is the culmination of months of research, which sought to understand how Acorn Foundation funding can best support local providers to deliver the resources our rangatahi (young people) in the Western Bay of Plenty need to live lives that they value. 

Findings

The report uses data collected and analysed by Acorn and local researchers Growth Development, and provides a rich insight into the quality of life, sense of belonging, prospects for successful transition from education into employment, health, and aspirations of our youth aged 14-24. 

Mental health ranked as the most common topic in all Focus Areas of this report. Studies highlight that Aotearoa has ongoing, deep struggles with youth suicide. We continue to have one of the highest youth suicide rates today, more than double that of the average developed country.

Locally, providers, young people and wh nau identify an urgent need for improved access to acute mental health services, counselling and community upskilling.

Not surprisingly, the impact of Covid-19 also features. Yet it is these global challenges, that are also seeing the current youth generation lead the way, bringing back the values of contribution, collectivity and kaitiakitanga.

However, the research highlights that if ongoing, deeply engrained societal challenges are not put front and centre, we will struggle to make the big picture gains needed. Key to this is the need to support communities to come together and work together on solutions. It is highlighted that solutions must be youth-led. Yet local insights also give us clues that the expertise of service providers at the frontline, is foundational to successfully build our youth for the future.

We launched the report at an online event on Monday 2 May, which was attended by more than 50 people, including representatives of local charities and youth service providers, as well as local MP Jan Tinetti, and supporters of the Acorn Foundation.

We hope that this report will serve as a useful tool and a catalyst for further change in our community. We're keen to keep the conversation going, so watch this space!

If you have any questions about this research, please reach out – we are happy to help. 
Acorn Foundation: margot@acornfoundation.org.nz

View the report

2020 Vital Update – Tauranga

‘Vital Update – Tauranga’ was a research project that focused on the geographic communities in Tauranga: who makes them up, and what their needs, wants and aspirations are for their neighbourhoods and the wider city.  

Acorn Foundation, TECT, BayTrust and Tauranga City Council partnered on this research so that together we can create a better future for our residents. By identifying which areas and communities need the most help and for what reasons, we can provide the support and resources required to make a difference. 

Findings

Our focus was to hear from Tauranga residents from all walks of life, with diverse backgrounds and experiences. This included a focus on those who are vulnerable, who deserve a voice.  

We asked our residents what they love about living in Tauranga, what things they would change, and what they want to protect. We asked about our residents’ housing and standards of living; their social wellbeing and feelings of connectedness; their accessibility of services and facilities, technology and transport; and their perception of safety in their neighbourhoods. 

We received 5,222 survey responses in total, with 4,835 responses from Tauranga residents. We’d like to thank the Tauranga community for taking the time to give us your feedback, for your honesty about your experiences, as well as your aspirations for the future of our city. 

The findings have reiterated some things that we already know – that people want to protect our beautiful environment and that traffic is an issue – but it has also helped us gain a deeper understanding of our demographic and geographic communities. 

We now have insightful data from our harder-to-reach residents, including our rangatahi (youth) as well as our kaumātua (ageing population). We heard from disabled people and their carers, and people experiencing homelessness. We also have a better understanding of the needs of Māori and the different ethnic communities that call Tauranga home. 

The findings are broken into a main report, 12 suburb reports (see below) and six priority group reports (see right), which specifically targeted certain community members whose views we don’t often hear.  

Suburb reports

Mount Maunganui, Omanu 

Arataki (Bayfair), Matapihi 

Pāpāmoa Beach, Wairākei (Pāpāmoa East), Te Tumu 

Kairua, Pāpāmoa Hills (Waitao)

Welcome Bay, Hairini, Maungatapu 

Poike, Oropi, Greerton, Ohauiti 

Gate Pā (Pukehinahina), Merivale (Parkvale) 

Pyes Pā, Omanawa, Tauriko, The Lakes 

Bethlehem 

Brookfield, Judea (Huria) 

Bellevue, Otūmoetai, Matua 

Tauranga South, city centre, Avenues, Sulphur Point 

We partnered with BayTrust, TECT and Tauranga City Council on this research because we each have a huge stake in the area. Serving the community is at the heart of what we do, and our actions and decisions have an impact on all the people of Tauranga. We are all committed to improving the wellbeing of our community, so it makes sense to team up. 

Working together allowed our survey to reach more people and encouraged a variety of different conversations. It enabled us to draw on each organisation’s expertise in driving community research. 

Having shared data to work from will help us increase our impact as we’ll all be singing from the same song sheet. This will be a strong basis for a more coordinated approach across our organisations to formulate and deliver great community outcomes. 

Independent local company Key Research conducted the survey and analysed the data. They prepared the final reports, which will be used by the partner organisations to guide decision-making around projects and grants. 

‘Vital Update – Tauranga’ is not a one off or a ‘make and forget’. All the partner organisations are planning on actively using the results of the research and have a desire to continue with this type of research every few years. 

If you have any questions about this research, please reach out – we are happy to help: 


Acorn Foundation: info@acornfoundation.org.nz 
Tauranga City Council (Community Development team): com.dev@tauranga.govt.nz 
Key Research NZ Ltd: info@keyresearch.co.nz 

2018 Vital Update

Vital Signs 2018 was a research project we undertook to better understand our community's perceptions of the place where they live. Following on from Acorn’s first Vital Signs report in 2015, the 2018 effort was expanded to cover the wider Bay of Plenty region. 

Findings

We analysed results from online and written surveys completed by 1,939 people from across the Western Bay of Plenty, to gain a rich insight into our quality of life and sense of belonging.  

The research sought to understand community perceptions of the following topics: Social and Cultural Wellbeing, Health and Wellbeing, Economic Wellbeing, and Environmental Wellbeing. It then identified priorities for improvement in each of those areas. 

The research found that the things residents love most about living in our region are the stunning natural environment, feelings of connectedness, and our region’s recreation facilities and parks.  

The biggest areas identified in need of improvement are perceived by residents as better planning for the region’s growth, the cost of living, and transportation/roading networks. This represented a shift from the findings of the 2015 research, when affordable housing and lack of job creation were highlighted as the biggest concerns. 

Acorn Foundation contracted Key Research to undertake the Vital Signs® 2018 research project. Key Research is a Tauranga-based market research company and is thus well-located to undertake this Bay-wide review of community perceptions. 

The Acorn Foundation would like to thank TECT, Tauranga City Council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and BayTrust for their invaluable support of the 2018 Vital Signs research project. 

Acorn plans to use the insights gained from the Vital Signs® report to help inspire and support those people who are helping to build a vibrant and thriving community in the Western Bay of Plenty region.  

We hope this report will help charities, other foundations and not-for-profit organisations, policy advisors and our local communities to identify where together we can make the most difference. 

If you have any questions about this research, please reach out – we are happy to help: 
Acorn Foundation: info@acornfoundation.org.nz 
Key Research NZ Ltd: info@keyresearch.co.nz 

View the report here.

2015 Vital Update

Our 2015 research was the first Vital Signs® research project in New Zealand. Originally developed in Canada, Vital Signs research is now used by Community Foundations all around the world. The findings form a baseline report, measuring the vitality of our region and identifying trends, strengths, and areas for improvement.  

Findings

An online survey was conducted in Nov/Dec 2014. It was open to all adult residents of the Western Bay of Plenty and a total of 1,546 people completed the survey.  

Residents were asked for their opinions on a range of topics, including arts and culture, sports, belonging, the economy, the environment, transportation, the environment, health, housing and safety. 

The research found that the things residents love most about living in our region are the stunning natural environment, feelings of connectedness, and our region’s recreation facilities and parks.  

The biggest areas identified in need of improvement are perceived by residents as affordable housing and lack of job creation. 

The following people formed the original steering group for this Vital Signs® project and we would like to thank them for their input and vision in helping to make this happen.  

Dr Rebecca Sargisson, The University of Waikato; Wayne Werder; Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust; Meagan Holmes,Tauranga City Council; Antoinette Denton, Western Bay of Plenty District Council and Sarah Davey, Bay of Plenty District Health Board

The Acorn Foundation, the Councils and local funders who supported the 2015 Vital Signs®  project will use these research findings when considering future funding for the Western Bay of Plenty. The research aims to inspire, and act as a benchmark for, future improvements to our region’s wellbeing. 

If you have any questions about this research, please reach out – we are happy to help: 

Acorn Foundation: info@acornfoundation.org.nz 

View the report

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