The beating heart of Te Arawa shows a model of collaboration

Published on Thursday, 9 April 2020

“Whānau aroha” has been the driver behind Te Arawa Covid-19 response hub according to head of Planning and Operations, Karen Vercoe. 

Since lockdown, the new entity has reached more than six hundred households across Rotorua and the wider rohe.

Karen says the food parcels and hygiene packs delivered to homes by trained volunteers had been extremely well received.

“We’ve had koeke who are quick to tell us when we’re “koretake”, ring us and thank us for what we’re doing. Our team has received calls from whānau crying at the other end of the phone because they’re so appreciative of the support.

“Our immediate priority is keeping whānau well and in their bubbles.”

Koeke, the immune-compromised and disabled whānau were the main concern in terms of care; that focus has now extended to whānau with tamariki and whānau who have lost their jobs.

In less than two weeks, Te Arawa hub has brought together more than 50 organisations to tackle the multiple issues that arise with the Covid-19 crisis including all Te Arawa tribal entities and hapū, Te Arawa Whānau Ora Collective as well as local government and central government agencies.

Karen says the funding commitment by Te Puni Kōkiri in the first fews days was a game-changer.

Waikato-Waiariki Regional Manager, Rachel Jones says her approach was “this is not business as usual and we need to move fast”.

“Te Arawa hub provides a model of collaboration which will endure across this crisis to connect whānau with the services they need. This was the best way of connecting with a large group of whānau in a short space of time.”

The funding from Te Puni Kōkiri went towards establishing the centre and providing some immediate relief to whānau.

“I think those first few days in lockdown were critical. Whānau, particularly those who are vulnerable, need to know that people outside of their bubble care. It’s about reducing their anxiety and fear.

“A lot of whānau are whakamā, particularly those who have recently lost their jobs, and they don’t like asking for handouts. By reaching out in to the community, they now know where they can go if they need other support.”

Whānau can connect with the Hub through their hapū, an 0508 number, their Facebook page or their website:

Te Arawa hub has a central “brain” that looks after the planning and operations, a network of hapū that has direct contact with whānau, a distribution point and an employment and economic regeneration arm.

Karen says the Intelligence and Data team are central to ensuring whānau are traced and receive help as and when required. The team are critical to connecting directly with whānau throughout the lockdown.

“We don’t attempt to duplicate the work of the big social and health agencies like the Ministry of Social Development and the District Health Board. It’s about working together, staying connected and filling the gaps.

She’s been heartened by the “amazing whānau aroha” Te Arawa waka has shown during this crisis.

“We’re operating like a marae with dedicated teams focused on key areas. This is an unprecedented challenge; it’s united us and in that respect it is a blessing.”

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