A new generation of leaders has emerged in Te Hiku since the Covid-19 level 4 lockdown was imposed on March 26.

The response of Te Hiku iwi, hapū and marae to the pandemic was swift and comprehensive, with a raft of initiatives designed to protect people, especially the elderly and otherwise vulnerable, from the erection of road checkpoints at iwi boundary lines to the making and distribution of care packages and the provision of emergency accommodation for families who needed to lock down safely.

As other teenagers were familiarising themselves with home schooling during a global health pandemic, 15-year-old Kaitaia College student Waiata Harrison (Te Rarawa) got to work.

She was part of the ground distribution crew that operated out of Roma Marae at the height of the lockdown, and helped pack the 500-plus care packages that were distributed to the coastal community's whānau.

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It was no Road to Damascus moment though - she comes from a whānau with a steady legacy of community work and custodianship in the Ahipara area.

"I've been doing stuff since I was born, in the frontline, in with it all," she said.

"We do anything and everything that's needed, from putting up the pou at the beach to stopping the pāua poachers. Like today, we just got back from putting up signs to stop the bikes from wrecking the dunes. We're heavily involved at the beach."

While the state of lockdown created social anxiety for some, moving amongst the community didn't faze her Waiata or sway her from her sense of duty.

"I didn't have any anxiety., I wore gloves and stuff, and made sure I didn't get sick. I didn't have to, but I just wanted to help everyone out during the pandemic. I wouldn't even say it's volunteering for me, because it's just a job that you have to do as a rangatahi of this area," she added.

Her sense of manaakitanga was shared by NgāiTakoto siblings Te Reinga Patuwairua (22) and Tikiahi Davis (27). In the chaotic days when the country moved from lockdown level 3 to level 4 within 48 hours, they were struck with the idea of creating an online platform for rangatahi voice.

The ngai-takoto Instagram page, which has since amassed 135 followers, was based on Te Whare Tapa Whā model of health, to inspire NgāiTakoto rangatahi to keep motivated and connected while socially distanced, using a platform that with a younger following of users.

"It all started when lockdown hit and we knew were going to be stuck at home for a couple of weeks," Tikiahi said.

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"So the tuahine and I had some whakaaro around starting an Instagram page, just to give rangatahi and all our followers something to do during the time of lockdown when they were stuck at home. We were posting videos of whatever we were getting up to; that involved raranga, smoking fish, working out, cooking lessons and how to prepare home-made hāngi. Just random little videos about what we get up to."

He and his sister also had a strong inheritance in terms of iwi involvement by their whānau, while Te Reinga, in her final year of studying law at the University of Waikato, was getting a head start in representing the interests of rangatahi to a wider Te Tai Tokerau iwi leadership.

"We released an article to Te Kahu o Taonui as an introduction of who we are and what we're doing in that space," she said.

"We were just there to be the rangatahi branch from what we're doing for the iwi on a higher level. I think it's quite important to have that rangatahi voice in those spaces."

Tikiahi added that as well as following the videos that were posted, many rangatahi had used the page as a safe space for open dialogue on Covid-related issues that affected them.

"There was a big kōrero around the legislation that was passed through, and the government only allowed 10 at the marae for tangihanga but 100 at pubs and bars. So there was a lot of kōrero around issues like that, which our rangatahi were chucking their hands up to talk about and how that works," he said.

Both were also part of the effort that saw young people from NgāiTakoto, Te Rarawa and Ngāti Hine join marae crews to pack and distribute 250 kete āwhina to whānau in need in between Whangārei and Te Hiku.

"That was a busy space, but cool to be amongst it with the people that were doing the mahi on the ground floor. Even though it was lockdown and all that, they were still operating on the ground floor, doing the hard yards while everyone was still working from home," Tikiahi said.

Te Reinga emphasised that manaakitanga for her people was the driving motivator behind her mahi, which would stand her in good stead as she fixed her sights on a career in family law when she graduates.

"Both of us are quite busy in our everyday lives, and it's a good time to give back to our iwi and our community for once. We're both quite full-on, and we never get the opportunity to share our journey," she added.

The ngai-takoto Instagram page (https://www.instagram.com/ngai-takoto/channel/) remains open.