Former prime minister Jacinda Ardern lent a hand at a Hastings marae on Tuesday, helping volunteers put together food parcels for those going without after the catastrophe of Cyclone Gabrielle.
One volunteer, a man who wished to only be known as Derek, said it wasn’t surprising to see her at the Waipatu Marae, a place she had visited many times throughout her time as leader, and with which she had a “strong connection”.
“It was a bit of a shock because you know, not being prime minister, you then go, well what is she doing here?” he said. “But then at the same time you kinda you’re like, oh yeah, of course, you would be there because she’s always been around in times of need.
“It was like, you know when one of the Aunties shows up? It was like ‘oh yes, you’ve come’.”
She was immediately put to the task of cutting watermelons in the kitchen, he said, but in between that, she took her time listening to stories of those staying at the marae who had been displaced due to the devastating storm.
She also had in-depth conversations with volunteers about the other sites preparing food and where the food was going.
She wanted to get a good understanding of “everyone’s point of view of the experience,” he said
He was under the impression that no one knew she was going to turn up there, she simply showed up and was determined to do what she could do to help.
Derek said the number of people around the community had been overwhelming, and they often had many more volunteers than what was needed.
But he said Ardern’s visit was especially important. “It was such a surprise but then at the same time, not a surprise because it was like Aunty came back to help out.”