Making connections aim of group

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A desire to connect is behind the success of the Cromwell Newcomers Group, created by local resident Sharon Smid.

Since she set up the group in 2016, more than 200 people had contacted her, Mrs Smid said.

The idea for the group came about when Mrs Smid spoke to her sister, who had moved to Timaru and went along to a newcomers’ group there.

Mrs Smid floated the idea at a meeting of the Cromwell Interagency Group, and soon it was up and running.

She now runs it along with Marie Roxburgh and a small social committee including Lorraine Foster, Pete Milne and Jude Shaw.

Mrs Smid came to Cromwell 26 years ago and recalled it was a challenge for her when she first arrived.

“We came from Manapouri here for the commissioning of the Clyde dam, just prior to the lake-fill.”

“When I moved here I had a couple of 18-month-olds, and most people I met were then leaving town because of the Clyde dam construction phase being wound up. People were moving away.”

Connecting with other people who had children was a way for Mrs Smid to make friends at the time.

“For me, I spent a lot of time on committees, mainly through children, as a means of meeting people,” Mrs Smid said.

Nowadays communities and neighbourhoods had changed.

“Once upon a time everybody knew who their neighbour was, at least to say hello and have a bit of a yarn over the fence.”

More people were also commuting to jobs in places such as Queenstown while living in Cromwell.

“People might live here but they may not know anybody to socialise with when they are not at work.”

Creating a range of different events was a focus for Mrs Smid.

Events included a “mix and mingle” night, a social bike ride, leisure walking and coffee, a Sunday morning hill walk, and special events.

“Every so often we throw in special events, like a picnic or a pot luck meal.”

Fundraisers were also part of the mix, with a recent quiz night raising funds for St John.

But the real aim was to make new connections that could grow into friendships, she said.

“Shared experience is the catalyst of conversation and connection.”

The Cromwell Newcomers Group can be contacted at cromwell@newcomers.co.nz or 22 111-3083