Bulk supplies for food parcels for Far North iwi Te Aupouri. Photo: Supplied.

Iwi everywhere put support plans into action, focusing on their  kaumātua, writes Kayne Ngātokowhā Peters.

Iwi are ramping up support services to assist their people in need following the closure of Ministry of Social Development offices and the move to online and phone assistance from Work and Income.

Central North Island iwi Ngāti Tūwharetoa has issued a safety message to the tribe’s people from their Ariki (paramount chief) Sir Tumu Te Heuheu imploring them to immediately protect their health and wellbeing.

The message was uploaded to Youtube on March 26 and has since reached thousands of people.

Ngāti Tūwharetoa has also taken matters into their own hands, sending out 350 supermarket gift cards to kaumātua (elderly) members of the tribe. And the tribe is calling for other iwi members to let them know of any other Ngāti Tūwharetoa kaumātua aged 65 and over in need of assistance.

The support packages have been set up by Tūwharetoa Settlement Trust, Ngāti Tūwharetoa Fisheries, and the Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board.

Other iwi setting up assistance for their kaumātua aged 65 and over include Te Aupouri and Ngāti Kuri in the Far North, who are providing food parcels and a helpline (0800 258 353).

In the South Island, Ngai Tahu hapū  Ngāti Waewae on the West Coast are also providing support packages to their kaumātua.

The initiative is a necessary service for the elderly and for people who can’t go out and get groceries by themselves, says Kia Paranihi, 73, a kuia of Ngāti Tūwharetoa and lives in Tokaanu on the southern boundary of Lake Taupō.

”People who can’t get food or can’t afford it at this time and are in need to stock up,”. She says. “Those are the ones that need help.”

While not all kaumātua are in that situation, many will be concerned about going to the supermarket while Covid-19 is spreading. “I’m not as bad as some people who might live 40km away from the shops’” Paranihi says. “They are the ones that might need assistance … Now that lockdown has occurred, I’ve got as much as I think I need and I’m prepared as best as I can be.”

She says her mokopuna have been contacting her constantly to make sure she is not going outside or interacting with anyone. In turn she says the younger generation need to be mindful of their own socialising.

“It’s very hard to get out of the socialising habits. And sometimes we forget ourselves and take things for granted. Socialising is quite intimate amongst us Māori.

“I think we all need to stop before we go out and remember this is a very special time where we need to take care of every single little thing. And don’t get too close to people. Wear gloves and a mask when you go to the supermarket. When you go home, get rid of the mask and the gloves. And if you’ve been too close to people with your clothes, possibly been breathed on, take them off and wash them.”

Safety announcement by Sir Tumu Te Heuheu

Kia ora tatou Ngati Tuwharetoa.

In the space of a very short time, as you are witnessing, Aotearoa is moving into alert level four – the highest alert status of this evolving pandemic.

I am asking you today to take care of yourselves, to help protect Ngāti Tūwharetoa today, tomorrow and together.

At this time, more than 205 people across Aotearoa are currently affected. And unfortunately, the number of affected people is likely to increase exponentially in the coming days.

As we’ve seen from our own history from the 1917 influenza epidemic, in times of crisis we find strength and unity. We will pull together to support and tautoko [support] one another.

I am asking you to do this now. By staying at home, restricting our movements, we are doing our bit to help ourselves, our whānau and the future of Ngāti Tūwharetoa.

I implore Ngāti Tūwharetoa whānui to take immediate steps to protect your health and wellbeing. Including that of your whānau around you, especially our kaumātua.

I have asked the iwi entities to implement an assistance programme for our kaumātua. And this will be implemented this week.

Again I implore you to keep yourselves informed and to abide by the protocols set for level four Covid-19 isolation.

E te iwi, piki te kaha [My people, raise up your strength].

Kayne Ngātokowhā Peters is a television presenter, reporter and documentary-maker. Most recently he co-produced the series 'Rediscovering Aotearoa'.

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