Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has continued her visit to Whakatāne stopping in at a key local Covid-19 response provider.
Joyful waiata rung out from Te Puna Ora o Mataatua as more than 100 staff formally welcome the Prime Minister, Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey and East Coast candidate Kiritapu Allan.
A large crowd of talkative and excited people trying to get a video swarmed to the entry to the centre.
The centre has been the main hub for Covid testing in the Bay of Plenty and is also one of Whakatāne's largest employers with about 550 staff.
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Te Puna Ora o Mataatua board chairwoman Fiona Wiremu said Ardern's visit was a wonderful acknowledgment of their work.
"She sees people on their ground roots level. You can see from the people outside that she would stop and talk to them. Her visit is recognition of all of their hard work."
Staff at the centre have been working 24/7 testing people for Covid, Wiremu said.
Wiremu said some staff didn't see their children for three weeks during the first wave of Covid.
"They did it for their whanāu, their people, their community. We are really grateful that [Ardern] acknowledges that. Everything she does, she sees the people."
Following this Ardern will visit the Whakatane Mill in Coastlands.
Earlier today Ardern met with first responders to the Whakaari/White Island eruption in December.