Tommy Kapai: Folk need help to build safe lives

By Tommy Kapai

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An island oasis to refresh those who help the helpless might be more important than a stadium.
An island oasis to refresh those who help the helpless might be more important than a stadium.

To build or not to build, that seems to be the question when it comes to a new stadium for Tauranga.

In bars and businesses across the Bay there is plenty of colourful korero on this subject and a perfect platform for polarising the community as was, and still is, a museum.

Throw in a couple of characters like Hori Bop and Bob the Builder and you have a potpourri for a project with little chance of success.

Meanwhile, across town, another question is being asked that has nothing to do with where to build a stadium, but everything about where to build a life - by mothers who need to find themselves and their kids a safe place to live.

For these mothers, the question is not "to build or not to build" but "to be bashed or not to be bashed" and walk away from some loser.

For some mothers, life is like a cruel game of monopoly where your partner hopefully goes straight to jail and you collect a couple of hundred dollars to keep you going until he gets out, only to dish out the despair all over again.

So what can we build these mothers and their whanau?

Where is their knight in shining armour? Their Slum Dog Millionaire, their Power Ranger? Even a Lone Ranger riding his horse, Silver, who could gather them all up and take them to somewhere safe would be cool.

For me it would be a building somewhere safe for these desperate mothers. A building that helps the helpers, somewhere for the social workers who see the desperation, and who taste the tears of sadness on the faces of abused and battered wives and mothers to go to and recharge themselves.

Both of these buildings would be at opposite ends of town or, even better, the oasis for the social workers could be out on one of our islands such as Matakana, Motiti or Tuhua where they can give their wairua (spirit) a new warrant of fitness. An oasis void of phones and family group conferences, where all they can hear is the sound of nature.

On one side of this cruel coin we have the criminals who exact violence on our communities and then go to jail for a rest.

Then they come out and point the bone of blame for their failure to be fathers at those who have tried to help their families to fend for themselves.

We have the helpers such as the social service workers who see the sadness all day, every day.

These are the often forgotten heroes in our community who try to sow seeds of hope for many who are not from Tauranga Moana and who do not have the luxury of whanau support that we as tangata whenua locals often take for granted.

I am often asked by good community-minded people how we can help the helpless.

If there was an "awhi oasis" then an army of retirees could man the kitchen and show the same kindness that many of our social workers show to those who need it most. Imagine a DIY oasis on Matakana or Motiti or out at Tuhua. Building something that serves every sector of our community and soaks up the stress and strain that we as a society are putting on our social services by allowing the gap between the haves and have nots to grow wider by the day.

Sure, I would love a stadium where I could watch the Chiefs without binoculars, and to be able to do that with Mauao watching me would be a dream come true. But morally my wish list for something special to be built here in Tauranga and its surrounding Moana cannot include the site and size of a sports stadium.

To build or not to build, that is the question. But where and what for - and who will benefit most?

broblack@xtra.co.nz

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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