Holidays over, most of the summer visitors gone home, kids back at school — Te Hiku was just about back to normal, but for some that was perhaps not a good thing according to Whiria te Muka kaiarohia Cheryl Armstrong.

Whiria te Muka, a unique partnership between Te Hiku iwi and the police, was launched in November 2017 with the main purpose of supporting whānau experiencing harm to move towards mana tangata [status].

Kaitaia-based police and iwi staff typically respond to 111 calls received by the police within 24 to 48 hours following reported whānau harm incidents to ensure that those involved are safe and can access the help they need.

During the two weeks from Christmas Eve to January 7 the team trialled working through to support whānau, a process that Ms Armstrong said had proved worthwhile.


"At that particular time of the year, almost every service and agency closes down in Kaitaia. So we wanted to make sure that whānau could access support in the immediate term to reduce risk and stay safe," she said.

Over those two weeks police attended 81 whānau harm incidents in Kaitaia, Kohukohu, Mangonui and Houhora involving offences from wilful damage to common assault. The kairiri [perpetrators] were aged from 15 to 71 years, kaimamae [the injured] from four to 68 years, and kaimātakitaki (t(witnesses) from birth to 71 years.

The "skeletal" Whiria te Muka team had not been able to follow up every incident, but observed that excessive alcohol consumption and financial stress were triggers for a significant number of them.

Ms Armstrong said the post-holiday, late January period was typicallyquiet, but the team was preparing for a potential spike in whānau harm incidents in March.

"Even though we're coming out of the summer season, coming out of the time when everyone's celebrating, there is usually an impact around March or April because that's actually when the bills start rolling in," she said.

"In my experience over the years, in March and April you start seeing whānau come through because all the bills that they've clocked up from Christmas — the present-buying and all that sort of stuff — start to impact a couple of months later. We'll have to watch that space and see if that happens."

Detective Edward Evans said a greater than usual influx of visitors to the Far North posed its own challenges, which the team would use in planning for the next Christmas-New Year period.

"We noticed a large number of incidents where family harm occurred up here, but when we went to follow up next day they had already gone home, so we had a number of incidents that were from other whānau from other areas," he said. "When we follow them up with a phone call, it's very easy on the phone to go 'Oh no, I'm sweet. We don't need any help.

"We're back down in Auckland now."