Originally the eight Te Tau Ihu iwi in Marlborough, Nelson and Tasman set up a manaaki-a-iwi response during lockdown alongside the Civil Defence to support vulnerable whānau Māori.
Buoyed by Te Puni Kōkiri funding of $100,000 to support the immediate COVID-19 response for Te Tau Ihu they were able to supply over 400 kai packages and 75 loads of firewood. But the group knew the need for food and warm homes would not stop when the lockdown restrictions were lifted.
Te Pātaka coordinator Joshua Joseph says the tail of Covid is lingering, and the new whānau they are supporting have lost one or two incomes in their household.
“Covid has illuminated the issues in our society and those whānau who were already struggling. Our mandate is that no whānau go hungry and this was backed by the iwi chairs. Our ongoing vision is ‘ka ora ai te iwi’ as it reflects us sustaining our people.”
“It’s just not good enough that children in our community are going hungry regardless of what the reasons are,” he says.
Te Pātaka is already operating in Wairau (the Marlborough region) as one of three pilots for the NZ Food Network and they are expanding to include Whakatū Marae in Nelson and Te Āwhina Marae in Motueka as distribution centres.
Joshua says Te Pātaka has been going for three weeks in Wairau, supporting 60 whānau, and he is seeing uncertainty around jobs in areas like hospitality and accommodation.
“Sometimes they’ve lost a job and are waiting for WINZ to kick in, others need to pay a power bill or fix a car and need kai until the next payday. Another was kaumatua who stepped in quickly to look after their mokopuna.”
“We still have businesses closing in the community and we are waiting with bated breath until the wage subsidy finishes as we are expecting a surge in jobs being lost,” he says.
Te Tai Hauāuru acting manager Jennie Smeaton says that it is heartening that groups like Te Pātaka are continuing their community collaboration to protect their people following the COVID-19 crisis.
“This multi-faceted approach that brings together iwi, NGO’s, kaupapa Māori organisations like Te Hauora o Ngāti Rarua, volunteers, Whānau Ora navigators and government has shown extreme resilience and coordination to tackle these social and economic issues,” Jennie says.
Joshua says one of the positives to have come out of Covid and previous emergency situations is the strong relationship between Māori and the Civil Defence.
“We have had earthquakes, fires and the pandemic. With each situation we’ve had to work out our response together and we will be ready for our whānau Māori whenever the next thing comes,” Joseph says.
Photo caption: Te Pātaka coordinator Joshua Joseph with firewood volunteers from Civil Defence and Marlborough District Council.