Marae helping out

Marae in and around Christchurch, on routes out of the city – and elsewhere too - have played a role in helping people affected by the earthquake.

Although it didn’t have reticulated water and people weren’t allowed to sleep in the wharenui, Rēhua Marae was in action soon after the 22 February shake. While properties around it didn’t have power Rēhua did and it also had clean tank water to drink and water for the wharepaku from a stream.

Te Puni Kōkiri staff began working out of there on the evening after the quake and marae staff began cooking kai for whoever came in; and provided hot food to the kaumātua in the flats out the back too. There were times when they were feeding about 450 people a day.

Rāpaki Marae across the hill at Lyttleton became the refuge for the locals whose homes were damaged or were in danger of damage from falling rocks.

Tuahiwi Marae was ready to take people the day after the quake, and as thousands of people started self-evacuating from the damaged parts of Ōtautahi, marae at Kaikōura, Waikawa – along with marae south – like Arowhenua at Temuka or the west coast too, began receiving manuhiri.

The people of Ngā Hau E Whā Marae at Aranui were champing at the bit to get into action but because of its proximity to one of the worst affected areas it needed to be examined by authorities before being able to open for use. Like Rēhua people are not allowed to sleep overnight in the wharenui but it has been operating since about a week after the quake as a recovery centre with multi-agency government staff there ready to help people. Six weeks after the quake it had a further burst of people through; who according to staff had been holding on looking after themselves but suddenly couldn’t keep it up any longer and have come for help.

And in something new for Christchurch, early in April the wharenui began to be used as a District Court.

Takahanga Marae at Kaikoura began receiving scores of people who’d fled their broken homes in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch soon after the quake; they arrived in what they stood up in. Te Puni Kōkiri and WINZ staff were on hand and emergency grants were made to the needy.

The weary travellers were given kai and took a shower and donned fresh clothes and while they were urged to stay and rest for the night, most elected to push on to catch the ferry north. Waikawa Marae at Picton received many visitors too – it actually became the civil defence post – after officials realised it made more sense to gather at the Marae with all its facilities rather than the secondary school a little further along the road.

On the Wellington side Pipitea Marae in Thorndon hosted hundreds of people including - in the first few hours – international tourists who were forced to evacuate their hotels with what they were wearing and were flown north by the air force.

But Marae round the country have opened their doors to help.

At the last census about 20% of the residents of Christchurch’s eastern suburbs were Māori; many of them have left. Half of all the Māori children enrolled at schools in that area prior to the quake have not returned to their schools; some have turned up at schools elsewhere in the country, but most are not enrolled anywhere.