Whiria te Muka, a partnership borne of the 2013 Te Hiku Iwi Social Accord and developed by the iwi chairs of Ngāti Kuri, Te Aupōuri, NgāiTakoto, Te Rarawa and the police to reduce and prevent whānau harm in Te Hiku and strive towards Mana Tangata, and the Ministry of Social Development are progressing towards a more formalised partnership, thanks to a successful working relationship formed in response to the Covid-19 level 4 lockdown.
Since the level 4 lockdown was implemented on March 26, a ministry staff member has worked alongside the team from Saturday to Mondays to fast-track solutions for whānau requiring immediate financial and accommodation support.
A total of 809 people were 'impacted' by 225 whānau harm incidents that were reported to police at Kaitaia, Houhora, Mangonui and Kohukohu, and were referred to Whiria Te Muka, between March 25 and May 13.
Detective Steve MacDonald said the team had continued its weekly Te Āhuru Mōwai meetings with Crown agency representatives from alert levels 4 to 2, enabling the sharing of valuable insights and reaching collective solutions for families.
"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," he said, adding that numerous successes had been achieved as the ministry moved from traditional hours of work to a more needs-based approach.
That had included finding emergency accommodation for families who had needed to break their 'bubbles' due to whānau harm, and the provision of "basic" cellphones to enable families at risk to maintain communications with support services and emergency food suppliers.
Regional Public Service Lead and MSD Northland Regional Commissioner Eru Lyndon said ministry's He Korowai Aroha (Cloak of Love) approach acknowledged that unique situations required unique responses, the ministry looking to provide support wherever it wad needed, including partnering with and empowering community groups.
"This partnership is a great demonstration of how communities can work together going forward," he said.
"We're going to need to collaborate with agencies, NGOs and community leaders to help our people overcome the challenges, and we'll be right there, shoulder to shoulder with our people."
Whiria Te Muka iwi co-director Callie Corrigan said moving to weave another Crown agency into the iwi-police partnership was an embodiment of the original Ruia, Ruia, Tahia, Tahia chant upon which Whiria Te Muka is founded on, referring to 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 flight from their pursuing enemies.
"A big mihi to MSD, because they are now seeing the opportunity and responding by starting to put that weave in," she said.
"Our goal now is to think, how do we get those other agencies that have a responsibility and knowledge to contribute to collectively work together?"
Te Rarawa chairman Haami Piripi agreed, adding that the partnership reaffirmed a mutual commitment to safeguard the wellbeing of Te Hiku people and prevent intergenerational harm for future generations.
"While Tūmatauenga, the god of war, has a place in industry, he has no place in our living rooms," he said.
"Whānau harm is destroying our homes and our culture, and Whiria te Muka is a long-term partnership. Our tamariki require this of us, and we all need to step up."