A small netball club in a small New Zealand town is showing they are big on community spirit in the fight against the economic impacts of coronavirus Covid-19.

Nestled in rural Horowhenua with a population of just 1501, Shannon has always boxed above its weight with thriving netball and rugby clubs.

Shannon businesses are often called on for sponsorship, so when the outbreak of Covid-19 saw them take a hit in recent weeks, one of those sports teams stepped up to the plate to repay that support.

Shannon Pumas, who boast two netball teams that play in the Horowhenua league, have unselfishly unlocked the cash reserves and have donated them to local businesses in the form of pre-paid vouchers.

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An example of the vouchers being gifted by the Shannon Pumas netball club during the Covid-19 lockdown.
An example of the vouchers being gifted by the Shannon Pumas netball club during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Pumas player-coach Karla Puhipuhi said it was unlikely their teams would be playing much netball this season anyway, and many of those businesses had contributed to their club fundraisers with sponsorship in the first place.

"These are businesses that have helped us in the past. These local businesses employ whanau, community and rangitahi," she said.

"Because we had fundraised and we're not sure if the season is going ahead, the fundraising is just sitting there."

"It's paying it forward, it's paying it back...it's paying it everywhere."

The vouchers had a two-fold benefit.

Puhipuhi said they had appealed to members of the public to nominate anyone, like an essential worker, that they thought might need a boost during the Covid-19 crisis and be worthy of a voucher.

So far they had managed to contactless hand-deliver 45 vouchers to letterboxes throughout Shannon and had enough in reserve for as many more.

The vouchers were for either coffee at Streetwise or The Horseman's Cafe, a $10 voucher for fish and chips at The Fish Whare, or a $10 voucher at Highway 57 Bakery and Cafe.

"Community strength is about understanding that everyone can contribute by positively engaging to empower each other," she said.

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"It might not be much but it might help make a difference."

Many of the Shannon Pumas team, who had consistently placed in the top four of their competition in recent seasons, were essential workers themselves in early childcare and health sectors.

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Puhipuhi, through her work for Mana o te Tangata Trust, had been on the ground working in Shannon since day one of lockdown, and had seen both the negative and positive impacts of Covid-19.

Those experiences helped to prompt the #supportlocal initiative, she said.

Pumas were community-minded and were involved in a lot of community initiatives in Shannon, like a community netball competition where players paid $2 each week to play, and the installation of a full-sized basketball court and units in town.

Meanwhile, Puhipuhi said The Fish Whare had the best fish and chips in New Zealand.