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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Thursday, March 03, 2011

TPK brings Nga Hau e Wha into relief effort

Te Puni Kokori is setting up a second base in Christchurch, closer to the hard hit eastern suburbs.

The Maori ministry established its initial aid distribution centre at Rehua Marae on the edge of the CBD the day after last week's devastating earthquake.

But chief executive Leith Comer says most of the city's Maori families live in the east, which makes Nga Hau e Wha Marae a more suitable base for the task at hand.

“The main thing is for people whose power might be off or who might not be well is to door knock. A lot of the information is now being passed by the Maori wardens working with Ngai Tahu and some of our staff walking around the streets and knocking on doors. Hood information is gold both to the people who need the resources and the people who are trying to plan where those resources should go,” Mr Comer says.

The Nga Hau e Wha support centre will be up by tomorrow and working closely with the relief teams at Rehua Marae and Ngai Tahu's base at the former Wigram airforce base.


Many whanau in suburbs like Aranaui and Papanui are still waiting for help ... and information ... to arrive.

Debbie Tamaiparea-Graham, who lives next door to Nga Hau e Wha Marae, has lost her phone, although she still has power and water.

She's too scared to leave home, so her only contact with the outside world is through neighbours or her husband venturing out to get a newspaper.

Debbie Tamaiparea-Graham says what the people in Aranui really need right now are masks to protect them from the fine dust particles.


Maori academic Rawiri Tanui says as a group Maori will have been hardest hit by the Canterbury earthquake.

The former head of Maori and ethnic studies at Canterbury University says the history of New Zealand is that Maori have often borne the brunt of natural disasters.

“That's not wanting to minimize anything that’s happened to anyone else but simply Maori are poorer, they live in poorer areas, in more vulnerable areas, and that’s true in Christchurch, there’s a large Maori population in the east of Christchurch,” Mr Taonui says.

He says it's testament to the strength of the Maori rennaissance that tribal organisations led by Ngai Tahu are able to take a lead in coordinating relief in the eastern suburbs.


Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu's call centre is proving invaluable as Maori in the city struggle to contact relatives and seek assistance.

Manager David Perenara-O'Connell says experience setting up the 0800 KAITAHU number after the September earthquake meant it could be reactivated the day after last week's quake.

He says while it can't take donations, it's a great coordination tool.

“We're at least taking a log of requests coming through from Ngai Tahu whanaui but also from iwi katoa and wider members of our community. As that number got out there and known it’s become busier doing everything from receiving direct calls from whanau on the ground looking for assistance through to ensuring marae have food available to provide for people staying there, food blankets, that type of thing,” Mr Perenara-O'Connell says.


The head of Christchurch's urban Maori authority says the earthquake has brought Christchurch's Maori population together after years of wrangling between mana whenua, taura here and urban Maori groups.

Norm Dewes is turning Nga Hau e Wha Marae in Aranui into a relief base.

He says all contributions are valuable.

“We don't want to think that Maori aren’t doing enough becuae the Maoir population has really rallied together and this is under the umbrella of the urban authority, under Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu as well. They have played a magnificent role in helping bring the Maori community together. There is going to be some real benefits out of this but it is sad it had to happen through an earthquake,” Mr Dewes says.

The doors of Nga Hau e Wha Marae will be open for everyone.


Meanwhile, one of Nga Hau e Wha's neighbours says help can't come soon enough for the people of Aranui.

Te Rina Anderson says the area was badly hit by liquefaction, and most houses on the street are still without power or water.

She says donations of food and water have only started in the past couple of days.

“I've actually pushed my mother off to Australia because if we have another big one I don’t want them here. All my family is scattering and we’re actually splitting up which kind of sucks for me but we’ve all got to get ourselves to safety,” Ms Anderson says.

She's looking for accommodation anywhere in the country for her and her two children.


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