A dedicated welfare helpline set up to assist Tararua District residents who might be having difficulty accessing essential supplies during the Covid-19 alert level 4 lockdown has been positively received.

Tararua District Council communications manager Mark Maxwell said about seven calls were received over the weekend and the council's Emergency Operations Centre staff were working through these.

The regional helpline has been established at 0800 725 678, with calls first being answered in the Palmerston North City Council call centre.

Tararua District callers are then referred to an Emergency Coordination Centre at Horizons Regional Council to discuss their needs.

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Once a caller's needs have been established, their information is passed on to the Tararua District Council Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) for follow up.

The Tararua welfare team then kicks into action, making contact with the caller and ensuring their needs are met by either a local support agency or council as necessary.

The helpline can be used to access food, medicine (pre-ordered scripts only), heating, bedding and any other supplies considered essential and is there to help everyone within the community.

Tararua District Council EOC welfare manager Sharon Wards said the 0800 number was in place to support the district's vulnerable people who don't have access to help through whanau or friends.

"There are some important points callers need to be aware when using the 0800 number," says Wards.

· The 0800 number is available between 7am and 7pm, seven days a week.

· Callers will be talked through a range of welfare questions when they first ring.

· Callers will receive a confirmation phone call from the Tararua District Council EOC.

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· All supplies will be delivered to the caller's doorstep by approved people with identification, wearing protective equipment and driving marked vehicles.

· Payment for supplies will be discussed with callers and will normally be by invoice from Tararua District Council.

· Callers will never be asked to provide their bank account or credit card details either over the phone or on delivery.

"With already strong demand for the service, callers can expect there may be delays of up to 10 minutes or so for calls to be answered," says Wards.

"We are asking people to be patient as there are many people struggling to access the basics in life."

One Tararua community group that has received assistance is the Woodville Pantry, which received a delivery of supplies from Emergency Operations Centre staff this week.

This voluntary group was established several years ago when it was recognised that people within the Woodville community did need help.

Rose Karena and her team have worked hard to establish contacts from within Tararua District as well as Manawatū and Hawke's Bay to enable them to tap into supplies of free food.

The Woodville Pantry is also well supported within the town. A bin is situated at the BP service station for donations of food and there is a generous response to this.

Some Woodville families make regular donations of money to enable volunteers to buy food for the pantry.

Prior to lockdown monthly family dinners were held at the Woodville marae. These were not just for those who were in need, they were to bring the community together.

The Woodville Pantry has also supplied lunches for schoolchildren.

A resident who said she was a supporter of the pantry but preferred to remain in the background said because Woodville was a small community it was not hard to tell who needed help.

"Rose has a great rapport with people and will make contact, perhaps through leaving a small parcel on the doorstep.

"There are always families here who need real and ongoing help and this has increased substantially over the last two weeks."

The Woodville Foodbank, run by the town's combined churches, is the other source of help for struggling families, providing food and other items when needed.

The EOC is also supporting foodbanks across the Tararua District with the support of the two local New World supermarkets in Dannevirke and Pahiatua.

Tararua residents who require support from a foodbank are encouraged to contact them directly or ring the 0800 725 678 helpline.