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Te Hiku Iwi and Community gear up to protect the region against the Delta Strain of Covid-19

Protecting all Te Hiku people and communities from Covid Delta if it breaks out in the Far North was the kaupapa that brought marae, iwi and community representatives together on 27 August to begin to develop a coordinated local Far North plan. Given that about 60 percent of the Te Hiku population is Māori, it’s not surprising that Māori as well as other community people met to take a lead on this issue.

The online hui was convened by Te Hiku Iwi Development Trust Vice-Chair - Hugh Karena and the Kotui Hauora; Programme Lead Marty Rogers. The hui wanted to ask a range of “what if questions” and find ways for local groups and communities to prepare and “mahi tahi - collaborate and create local awareness and local solutions”. Karena said: “we’re all anxious about what will happen if Delta reaches Te Hiku: do we have enough medical support or hospital beds to cater for an outbreak; what happens to our food supplies if Pak n Save is closed as a location of interest, or if more people flood into the North from areas already afflicted by Delta. The digital hui was a positive first step to share stories about things that are important to our people; find out what different groups are planning to do when Delta comes and get all those different local efforts joined up and working together”.

The key questions posed to attendees in the hui were:

1. If Pak n Save Kaitaia was closed as a location of interest? What’s our Plan B for kai?

2. If there is actually a case of Delta Covid in Te Hiku? Where is the MIQ to isolate them?

3. If there was a spike in cases which saw the capacity of a few beds with oxygen ventilators at our local hospital overwhelmed? What could our organisations do to help?

4. Are our whānau in Te Hiku getting the information they need and how might we get information to them?

5. What roles would be required to support this coordinated effort?

6. Who could provide this support to a Local Emergency coordinated effort to whānau, Marae, hapū and takiwā?

7. And what might a co-ordinated plan look like for Te Hiku?

Off the bat one of the attendees Hone Harawira said - “lets start with the position that Delta is already inside our Te Hiku Territory and plan accordingly”. There seemed to be a general acceptance on the zoom hui that if it wasn’t here already, then it would come sooner or later and that we needed to get ready now.

Overall themes that emerge focused on regional security and maintaining a clear distribution line for kai for whānau. Sheridan Waitai of Ngati Kuri says this time: “We will not be in a rush to put our volunteers on the frontline due to the contagious nature of the Delta strain. Our isolated communities are nearly an hour and a half from the closest supermarket so we need to ensure we have the ability to protect and maintain our supply of kai and water”.

The Hospital reassured the hui that they are well prepared for an influx of patients welcoming walk-ins with their own in house covid testing service and three ventilators on the ready.

On border control, Wallace Rivers Co-Chair of Ngāitakoto shared that:” current legislation on Border control will not allow co-partnership in regional Border security. Presently it's considered a Police job only and Iwi has to work with them. Wallace mentioned that Iwi Chairs have expressed their dismay with the current situation and that Te Taitokerau Iwi will not accept slow reactions like what we have seen for the North. Border security must be stood up immediately and iwi and Tatiokerau Border Control needs to be part of this process moving forward”.

The hui participants clearly believed that Police have an important role to play in any Te Hiku response. Harawira sent a clear message, “We must protect Muriwhenua and ensure we play a leadership role in ensuring Delta does not make its way throughout our communities. Delta has been brought here by outsiders, it is important for our Te Hiku citizens to take registrations of suspicious vehicles and share this information directly with Police. Checkpoints are one thing, communication and good information is equally important to educate our whānau”. Te Rūnanga ā Iwi o Ngāti Kahu CEO Anahera Herbert-Graves continued the kōrero and asked that “Police do their part and use their Waiwera tunnel camera footage to give Te Hiku real-time data on how many non-Taitokerau registered vehicles made their way to the North”.

Te Hiku Hauora CE Bill Halkyard shared his throughs prior to the digital hui that in his view “the best way to prevent Te Hiku people from dying of Covid Delta is to encourage everyone over the age of 12 to vaccinate". The emphasis on testing and vaccination was reaffirmed by Whakawhiti Ora Pai CE Errol Murray who also wants to strengthen whānau health and wellbeing. Haami Piripi, Chairman of Te Rarawa also noted the importance of getting the right data and information to inform local decision-making saying “we need access to quality data from agencies, we need to know what is happening now, not later”.

On communications Peter Lucas Jones General Manager Te Hiku Media says in order to combat misinformation, it is vital that Iwi creates and contribute to one key channel with trusted voices and trusted places that come from within our community and show the leadership that is coming from within our own whānau.

Carol Berghan from Te Hiku Iwi Development Trust shared the real-life issues happening on the ground including the increased callouts for Family Harm and Violence, issues facing small businesses where lockdown could force bankruptcy and closures. We need two onramps to a Te Hiku response. The first is a Level 4 and Level 3 response to Health but the second requires us to think about a Level 4 and level 3 response to the economy.’

Kaio Karipa, Chair of Ngāitakoto felt that: “moving forward, the purpose of coming together is to protect our community from this deadly virus. We need to make a stand as Te Hiku and we can only do this by working together”.

Karena noted that “It was our tupuna Merengaroto, who coined the phase “He aha te mea nui o tēnei Ao? he tangata, he tangata, he tangata, what is the most important thing in this world? – it is people, it is people, it is people.” Karena says “this is the reason we must focus on the wellbeing of our people and get our act together to protect them”.

The group will reconvene Monday 30 August to bring together a coordinated local Far North plan for when a Delta outbreak occurs in Te Hiku to protect and care for all of our people.


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