An iwi initiative has partnered up with a Government agency in response to whānau harm in the Far North in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Whiria Te Muka – a collaboration developed by the iwi chairs of Ngāti Kuri, Te Aupōuri, NgāiTakoto, Te Rarawa and the NZ Police – and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) are progressing towards a more formalised partnership, after successfully working together during alert level 4.
From March 25 to May 13, 809 people were impacted by 225 whānau harm incidents which were reported to Kaitāia, Houhora, Mangonui and Kohukohu police and entered into Whiria Te Muka.
Since level 4 lockdown was implemented, a MSD staff member has worked alongside the team on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays to fast track solutions for whānau requiring immediate financial and accommodation support during these days of high volume.
Detective Steve MacDonald said meetings with Whiria Te Muka and MSD enabled them to share valuable insights and reach collective solutions.
"The input from MSD throughout these meetings has always been invaluable, but the role has now moved from an information sharing capacity to more immediate action throughout all Covid-19 lockdown levels," he said.
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As the department moved from traditional hours of work to a more needs-based approach during this time, MacDonald said there had been numerous successes for people impacted by whānau harm.
This has included accessing emergency accommodation for families who have needed to break their bubbles and the provision of both cellphones to maintain communications with support services and emergency food supplies.
MSD Northland regional commissioner Eru Lyndon said MSD approached the response of support for communities under "he korowai aroha" (cloak of love), acknowledging that unique situations require unique responses.
"This partnership is a great demonstration of how communities can work together going forward. We're going to need to collaborate with agencies, NGOs, and community leaders to help our people overcome the impending challenges; and we'll be right there, shoulder to shoulder with our people," Lyndon said.
Whiria Te Muka Iwi co-director Callie Corrigan added that moving to weave another Crown agency into the iwi-police partnership is an embodiment of the original Ruia, Ruia, Tahia, Tahia chant that that Whiria Te Muka is founded on.
The narrative tells of the escape of Muriwhenua tūpuna Tūmatahina, who led his people in a single line to safety by weaving together a strong rope and ensuring that his was the last footprint to overlay their collective flight from their pursuant enemies.
Te Rarawa chairperson Haami Piripi agreed, saying the joining together of Crown and iwi in partnership in the whānau harm space reaffirms a mutual commitment to safeguard the wellbeing of Te Hiku people.
"While Tūmatauenga – the god of war – has a place in industry, he has no place in our living rooms. Whānau harm is destroying our homes and our culture, so Whiria Te Muka is a long-term partnership. Our tamariki require this of us and we all need to step up. As Iwi, our role with our partners is to support them, test new things and swim upstream towards the prevention spaces."