National Nati news / Hauora
25 Mar 2020

From midnight tonight, Ngati Porou, Tairawhiti and Aotearoa will move to COVID-19, Level 4.

We will be in ‘lock down’, which means the experts have determined that the only way we can stop COVID is to stay home - and shut down all the places we normally gather to congregate.

Most of our marae in Ngati Porou and Tairawhiti have already decided to close.  From midnight there will no choice for any of our other marae – we must close them all until further notice.  You no doubt know that closure also applies to schools, public amenities and many local businesses.

For the time being the closure also applies to TRONPnui’s offices in Ruatoria and Kaiti.  But we have set up two 0800 numbers while we adjust to the Level 4 arrangements.

Between 8am to 4pm weekdays you can call 0800 833 502 or else 0800 NPOROU (0800 676 768) and our staff will do what they can to respond to your enquiry.

Travel on the road is also restricted to essential purposes – such as going to do shopping for yourself or for pakeke or others who – for the time being - can’t do that themselves.  Otherwise, we must keep off the road, stay home and look after our families.

I have seen social media, and had some contact, from Ngati Porou relations in other parts of the country – and overseas – who are very much thinking of the iwi kaenga.  They are sending us their best wishes. 

To you all, I say thank you, and that we are thinking of you too.  But I also ask those who want to come back home - to isolate yourselves - to please stay where you are.  Our small health services at home will only cope with a very small number of COVID cases, and our grocery stores won’t be able to handle an influx of new customers.  Come home when we get the all clear – and then spend up large!

This morning I heard of a small group of foreigners who are virtually trapped in Tairawhiti because airline travel to get them home has been cut right back – and the Level 4 restrictions have added to their difficulties. 

There’ll be cases like that – as well as the odd hoha who should have stayed where they belong.  But let’s picture a group of our whanau stuck in ‘lock down’ overseas, and worried about how they get back home.  And, then, let’s imagine that they are getting the manaakitanga over there that we pride ourselves on giving to our own manuhiri.

As has been said to me:  If all I have to offer someone is Ngati Porou bread and Ngati Porou water, it will be the best tasting bread and the best tasting water they’ll ever have.  But kaua e wareware - they’ll have to enjoy it at least two metres away from us.

I want to let you know that Ngati Porou has joined with our whanaunga in Turanga to form a Tairawhiti iwi Response to COVID-19. 

In my previous video I spoke a bit about the practical help we are putting together aimed at our pakeke, whanau members with chronic conditions, and other whanau in high need.

Our big priorities are the four “H’s”:  health, winter heating, help and harm-free households.  That’s the basis of our Response Plan and we are quickly sorting through the details of it so we can get going.

A big part of the Plan is that we will need help from the fit and able to get the assistance to who and where it is most needed. 

So, each runanga will be working quickly to form up teams and relationship between our own staff and groups leading the charge in their local communities to support whanau. Details will follow in coming days, but the Tairawhiti Iwi Response is about care packages not scare packages. 

In closing I want to return to the closure of our maraes.  I know that these decisions have not been taken lightly, and that the Government has cancelled the hosting of weddings, large birthdays and – significantly - tangihanga.

It is a sad reality that – since COVID-19 came about - Ngati Porou whanau have already lost loved ones who could not be taken to their marae for proper tangihanga.  And we know that we will lose more of our whanaunga during the period ahead.

So, my commitment is this.  When we have won the fight against COVID, and our marae can re-open, we will gather together and hold a shared kawe mate for all of those who have passed on during the period of COVID.  We might hold the kawe mate at Porourangi, or Poho, or Hinemaurea  - or all of them and more. 

And when we do gather together we will reflect on all that we have experienced, we will recall each and every one of our loved ones, and they will be very understanding of us.

Be safe, be kind, and be well.