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Unsung covid heroes praised

Rangitane o Wairarapa cultural adviser Mike Kawana said the priority for iwi during lockdown was to ensure they were well-informed. PHOTO/rnz.co.nz


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

Wairarapa’s community support during the covid-19 Alert Levels 4 and 3 lockdowns was among the best in the country, giving major urban areas much to think about when it comes to working together.

While official notices and media news concentrated on metropolitan and high population regions, it was the smaller communities that exhibited the true meaning of community support.
Wairarapa is a good example.

Geographically isolated but within an hour of major populations, Wairarapa is made up of several small towns, villages and hamlets.

People looked out for neighbours.

They interacted much closer with each other, wherever they lived.

Ko Wairarapa Tenei was initiated in response to the covid-19 pandemic threat.

It set out a coordinated and planned approach for Wairarapa Maori to develop and lead the way to support Wairarapa whanau during the pandemic.

The initial group involved the two iwi, Hauora Mental Health services, Whaiora, and well-being services, and supported by the District Health Board Maori Health Directorate.

When Alert Level 3 lockdown loomed, the responsibility shifted to Civil Defence and the Emergency Operations Centre which covered the three local authorities and was led out of Masterton District Council.

Wairarapa Tenei expanded to include the two iwi treaty settlement trusts, South Wairarapa District Council Maori Standing Committee, Featherston’s Pae Tu Mokai, and whanau who offered their expertise and work-based knowledge.

Police and other community organisations also came on board.

There is a well-known Maori proverb, which when translated, goes, “The kumara does not say how tasty it is”. In other words, a person should not blow his own trumpet.

And that is why so much that Maori do in the community is unsung, unreported and unnoticed.

In the period March 25 to July 3, the following services were provided by local Maori: More than 25,000 food parcels were distributed, including meat, vegies, fresh fish, and dry goods; more than 2500 cartons of personal, health and hygiene products were distributed; 27 loads of firewood, food vouchers, rent, medical and vehicle expenses were covered; emergency accommodation, licence fees; education packs to school children; phone top-ups where needed; assistance with power and heating bills; 50 families connected to the internet especially for schooling; free flu vaccinations; Foodbank stocks were replenished; 60 regular volunteers registered as essential workers were engaged in collection of goods, packaging them for distribution, deliveries and administration; five vehicles operating on a daily basis in collecting or distributing goods plus a good number of other vehicles used as needed; close to $100,000 donated by local Maori organisations; donations by outside organisations or people in various ways; and every elderly whanau who could be reached was phoned personally each week to check on their well-being and keeping in touch.

Several businesses donated food especially meat, others donated delivery bags and other goods.

Other businesses gave handsome bulk allowances on their supplies

This took place when travel and personal movement was strictly curtailed.

Once most of the covid-19 restrictions were lifted, the Wairarapa Tenei governing team developed a plan to prepare for any future return to lockdown or other emergency.

Also covered was a Wairarapa Maori “Reset” plan, rather than a “Recovery” plan, to highlight the desire to lead to a better future for whanau.

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