Whanganui's two urban marae are in lockdown, with all bookings cancelled.

Putiki Marae trustees met on March 23, chairman Hone Tamehana said. They considered the Covid-19 restrictions and closed the marae immediately, until further notice.

"Health and safety have to be paramount."

Overheads and bills will be paid but no one will be there. Tamehana and his wife have made up packs of sanitising equipment and other necessities, and taken them to about 30 residents of the marae's kaumātua flats.


Most have family or caregivers to support them, but the packs will "give them a bit of incentive to pick themselves up", Tamehana said.

"From a community perspective, at Putiki we are doing our little bit. I just hope that other communities can do something similar."

Questions will be asked, he said, especially about how to hold tangihanga.

"I'm saying that every man's kainga is his marae."

Putiki Marae hosts many occasions but has had to cancel all bookings due to Covid-19. Photo / Laurel Stowell
Putiki Marae hosts many occasions but has had to cancel all bookings due to Covid-19. Photo / Laurel Stowell

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He acknowledged the pandemic is a completely new situation.

"We are learning as we are navigating this, at the same time."

Virtual meetings and teleconferences could substitute for face- to-face meetings, but some of those involved won't have the technical skills.


"I will probably spend more time making private calls, person-to-person calls."

Putiki people have also had an abrupt suspension of waka ama training. Two teams had qualified and were training for the 2020 IVF World Elite and Club Sprint Championships in Hawaii in August. The event has been cancelled and many of the team members are older.

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"Our last paddle was on Saturday. There's no more training and the club closes down."

It's the same story at Te Ao Hou Marae in Aramoho. All bookings are cancelled for the next three months, chairman Geoffrey Hipango said.

They include tangihanga and a national permaculture conference.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Hipango will be keeping an eye on welfare in three adjoining houses and the kaumātua flats. He said people can take heart by attending online karakia, available to everyone, on Che Wilson's Facebook page Che's Channel - Te Paepae Waho.
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