Māori Wardens have supported whānau "at a grassroots level" since the late 1800s. Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters calls them "a huge asset to New Zealand's social cohesion". Samantha Olley met some of our local volunteers.
"Aroha ki te tangata. For the love of the people."
That's the Māori Wardens motto, and it's exactly why Katikati volunteer Charlotte Huiarangi joined in 2007.
She's far from the longest-serving member.
Huhana (Susan) Tūkaki signed up in Katikati 25 years ago, and Tauranga Moana volunteer Aquilla Henry started lending a hand in the 1970s.
Henry says his "koros and aunties back in the days were wardens".
"That's why I joined up. To look after our old, our young and the next generation."
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced $3.75 million in funding nationally to support the wardens' training, recruitment, promotion and self-management earlier this year.
The country's 900 wardens work with the homeless, people under the influence of alcohol, young people and the wider community, they facilitate hui and hīkoi and provide event and traffic management.
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They are not police, and they're not security guards, but they have some responsibilities under the Māori Community Development Act 1962, based on their values of rangimārie, manaaki, kōrero, whakaiti, tautoko and pono - peace, kindness, talking, humility, support, and honesty.
National Māori Wardens Conference 2019
Watch and hear from the Māori Wardens from across the motu who talk about their experience at the National Māori Wardens Conference held at Tūrangawaewae Marae in Ngāruawāhia this year. #ArohaKiTeTangata #MāoriWardensNationalConference2019 #MāoriWardens #NgāWāteneMāoriPosted by Māori Wardens on Tuesday, 3 September 2019
The wardens held a landmark vote to work with the Government to update the legislation and bring the wardens more autonomy, at a national conference at Tūrangawaewae marae in July.
When the Bay of Plenty Times met with volunteers from the area, they had just completed de-escalation training with emergency services, the Salvation Army and the Tauranga City Council.
They also do regular training for emergency responses, whether that involves first aid or supporting police, as do the Matakana Island wardens and Mount Maunganui wardens.
Tūkaki says de-escalation, or calming down conflicts, is something that comes naturally to wardens.
"It's how to speak to people, your posture, how you act with them in response to abusive behaviour.
"It's all about how you present yourself to the person ... That's all it is really, so there's nothing physical that goes on," Huiarangi adds.
While most attendees took part in the de-escalation training as part of the paid jobs, the wardens made the effort to travel and be there in their own time.
"But hey, kei te pai," Tūkaki says, shrugging it off.
Fellow Katikati warden Shaan Kingi says he is lucky: "I do a lot of work at home and that allows me to be flexible and work as a Māori Warden as well".
He first became a warden at age 15 when the Katikati group was recruiting at marae.
"So I was a part of their plan ... to get younger people in the organisation."
Marie Gardiner, the secretary of the Tauranga Moana wardens, considers herself "fairly new" because she has spent "only three years" in the organisation.
"I used to provide transport for the wardens and then hello I am dragged in," she giggles.
Western Bay of Plenty kapa haka tutor, MC, and judge Ed Te Moana says the wardens are always at events guiding people to parks or seats, or ticketing on the doors.
"It's a big job ... They can be out in the rain, often all day, right until the night's finished.
"The wardens will especially go over and above for our kaumātua, they will drive them to gates or get their buggies out or their umbrellas. They do a very meaningful job."
He says wardens don't get the recognition they deserve.
"They do a marvellous job in so many different settings. They are often in their older years too but they put in the hard yards."
Gardiner estimates she puts in anywhere between 34 and 60 hours a week each into running the branches they oversee.
She says the hardest part of the role is dealing with bad behaviour.
"We cop it verbally quite often. It just needs to be one in a group to make trouble, the rest might be great ... But most of the public know we are wardens.
"They see our uniform, and they calm down. That's what I've found so far. Especially at the bus stop in town that we look after, to make children feel safe around strangers."
But for her colleague Henry, "there is no hard part".
"There has never been a hard part. It's all just about being a normal person, communicating, being nice and respectful."
Tūkaki has worked thousands of hours and constantly confronts issues - such as unemployment, suicide and homelessness – to make community members feel safe.
She says the best way the public can help the wardens is "to give them a smile".
"Just let us know you're okay."
Want to join?
Contact Te Puni Kōkiri or the Māori Council to be connected with your local group.
Then fill in an application form to being the process.