A regional civil defence group has begun working with tangata whenua on disaster response planning.
Representatives of iwi and hapū from across the region engaged in a workshop with the Manawatū-Whanganui Civil Defence and Emergency Management group to begin working on a co-ordinated plan for responding to a major flood or earthquake.
The group is reviewing its five-year plan for dealing with the risks posed by hazards within the region. As part of the National Disaster Resilience Strategy, it also wants to work more closely with hapū and iwi to understand and include tangata whenua perspectives and tikanga in emergency management.
Workshop leader Jim Tetlow says there is a clear desire to see the capability of iwi and hapū recognised in plans for future events, and the civil defence group's five-year plan would reflect that.
Whangaehu Marae trustee Alan Turia, of Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa, attended the workshop in Marton. He says responding to immediate need and looking after people and the environment is "second nature" for iwi Māori.
"Iwi and hapū have always been leaders in that area, they've always sort of been ahead of the game. I think that's just part of our make-up, of who we are and what we do, and those are things that we just do every day. It's something that we practise all the time."
Turia says marae communities have for generations developed and maintained the facilities, knowledge and capability to care for large numbers of people.
"That was something that was acknowledged in the meeting. They've got all these CD posts around the country and they use their schools. They don't have the ablution facilities that marae have and they also don't have the sleeping. Plus we've got the cooking facilities, you know – we know how to feed 200, 300, 400 people."
Turia says Whangaehu Marae has been working over the years to ensure it can look after its community in the event of emergency, crisis or disaster. As well as electricity, it has gas for hot water and cooking, and installed its first solar panels about 18 months ago.
The Manawatū-Whanganui Civil Defence and Emergency Management group is a collective of local authorities, governed by a Joint Standing Committee which includes the mayors and regional council chair, and supported by senior leaders from local authorities, iwi, police, fire and emergency and other agencies.
Iwi advisor to the group, Chris Kumeroa, says hapū and iwi representatives at the workshop will go back to their tribal entities to inform them that the process has begun.
"I think we can all give ourselves a pat on the back," Kumeroa said. "This is genuine Treaty relationship building and will mean a lot to tangata whenua in our region."