Māori Wardens in Hawke's Bay are used to being out on the beat, looking after the safety of their communities – making them ideal ambassadors for a Covid-19 vaccination drive.
Published: Wednesday, 17 November 2021 | Rāapa, 17 Whiringa ā-rangi, 2021
Their local knowledge and manaakitanga have been key to a recent door-to-door campaign.
Takitimu Māori Wardens teamed up with hauora kaimahi from Te Taiwhenua a Heretaunga to walk the suburbs of Camberley and Flaxmere in Hastings earlier this month. George Rarere, Takitimu Māori Wardens Operations Manager, says most of the whānau whose doors they knocked on were eager to engage with them.
“We explained we were conducting welfare checks in the neighbourhood and asked if they needed any assistance. We also asked if they had been vaccinated, and if not, we provided information about the process and the opportunity to book their vaccination right then and there. For those who needed transport, we were also able to organise a ride to their appointments.”
Wardens returned the next day to follow up on whānau who weren’t at home the first time to ensure they reached as many households as possible.
Around 57% of the eligible Maori population in the Hawkes Bay DHB region are fully vaccinated and Monica Watson, a member of the Takitimu Māori Wardens, was keen to increase these numbers.
“When you look at the stats…they are low, and I understand why,” she says, before revealing she was among those hesitant to have the vaccine.
“I was one who was a bit iffy about being vaccinated. But then I had a good think about it, and I thought, ’No, it’s not about me’. It’s about my future generations. It’s about my mokopuna, it’s about my tamariki. I want to save them, and I want to save our people too. They are important.”
“I talked to a lot of people. Some of them have the fear of a needle. I said, ‘Kei te pai, you’ll be fine. Because our nurses are good at doing their mahi. They know what they’re doing. I talked about the Treaty. How the traders came over here and our people were healthy at that time. But quite a few of them got wiped out because of the diseases. So that’s why I am out here, and why I want our people to go out and be vaccinated.”
Last month, Takitimu Māori Wardens also supported Taiwhenua o Te Whanganui ā Orotū in Napier with their COVID Super Saturday. They provided rides for whānau needing transport and went door-knocking in the suburb of Onekawa. The Wardens will soon be helping Hawke's Bay DHB with their COVID activation strategy.
Te Rau Clarke, Māori Wardens manager at Te Puni Kōkiri, says the invaluable work by the Takitimu wardens is being mirrored nationwide.
“Māori Wardens are proving their worth within many communities across the country at this time. They are able to connect with hard-to -reach whānau and are trusted community advocates."
The Māori Wardens’ community outreach to lift vaccination rates will ramp up even further, following the approval of a Māori Communities COVID-19 Fund contract for the National Māori Wardens.