Rangitane cultural adviser Mike Kawana says the priority for iwi is to ensure they are well-informed. PHOTOS/RNZ

TE ANIWA HURIHANGANUI

A Wairarapa iwi is rallying around its most vulnerable amid the threat of covid-19, preparing food packs and other essentials for every kaumatua in its area.

The country’s elderly are most at risk of the virus, with many rest homes in restricted access.

Raumahora Waata, of Te Runanga o Rangitane, said care packages had been handed out to 48 kaumatua on Friday.

“There’s baked beans, corn beef, sweetcorn, we thought about ones who are diabetic so we’ve got fruit jellybeans, long-life milk, tea, coffee, moist wipes because hand sanitiser is very skim at the moment, cans of tuna, peanut butter, and cans of protein,” she said.

Care packages include baked beans, corn beef, sweetcorn and many other items.

Masterton supermarkets had been stretched for the past week, but Waata said Pak’nSave was willing to help out with a special bulk order.

“We decided to go to the duty manager there at Pak’nSave and talk to them about what our kaupapa is,” she said.

“Their comments were, ‘we’re pleased to assist’, because they’re community orientated as well so any way that they could help by making sure that they had the stock available is what they gave as far as their koha is concerned.”

Each pack will also include an information sheet about the symptoms of covid-19 and how to stop the spread of germs.

It will be a welcome surprise for many kaumatua like Sally Tahana, who said the virus was weighing heavily on her mind.

“When I hear it on the news and read it in the local paper, I start thinking about some of the aches and pains and things that I’ve got,” she said.

“I think, I wonder if that’s a symptom of this virus. But it is frightening, well for me it’s frightening.”

She said it had been difficult not being able to hug or kiss her mokopuna.

“When they come, naturally, you just want to give them a kiss” she said.

“I’ll say, come on, and they’ll say, ‘oh, we’re not allowed too’.

“It’s a bit hard because, for Maori, when you see one another you just naturally give each other a hug.”

Kaumatua Frances Reiri Smith said it was a concerning time for everyone.

“My huge concern is my brother who’s in Australia,” she said.

“He’s bed-ridden. If we go across to his tangi we won’t even get to it because we’ll have two weeks in lockdown.

“[In] Wairarapa, it’s our babies and our elderly, particularly those who are asthmatics and have bronchial problems, who will be at risk.”

Rangitane o Wairarapa has also recommended to all Wairarapa marae that they not offer their facilities for quarantine purposes.– rnz.co.nz