Tahuwhakatiki Marae in Welcome Bay has introduced a lot more than just hand sanitiser in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Because of the threat of the coronavirus we've had to change the way we do things at the marae," Tahuwhakatiki Marae Trust chairman John Ohia says.

A new system has been introduced to temporarily replace the hongi, the harirū (handshake) and hugging.

Ohia said it was time to introduce a new system which did not involve any touching.


"It's a simple process and basically we bow after there's some Māori command and, secondly, we go through another command and at the end of that we say 'tihei mauri tau' which is the ending of that particular process."

Pupils from Te Akau ki Pāpāmoa School got to try the new practice during a recent visit.

"It doesn't take very long, maybe about 10 seconds, 20 seconds and it's all over – compared to what we used to do which could take up to half an hour, three-quarters of an hour because you'd be touching every person that comes through," Ohia says.

Other marae are taking similar steps to avoid contact during greetings, and when life returns to normal the traditional greetings will be back.

"The tīkanga will always be there. Once the coronavirus has disappeared, if there's such a thing, or we're able to manage it a lot better, then we can reintroduce the hongi, the harirū and the hugs," Ohia says.

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