Akerama Marae's decision to protect community

By James Caldwell

Akerama Marae in the North has joined the growing list of marae across the country who have chosen to close their doors to large groups.

But it is their tragic past that has brought them to their brave decision today.

Marae chair Allan Haliday explains, "We didn't come to this decision lightly and we think it's necessary to stop the spread of this coronavirus."

The marae says their experience with the Spanish Flu had a devastating impact on their community.

Wattie Cooper, another descendant and trustee of Akerama Marae describes how his grandfather was a soldier in the First World War, and how he became immune to the Spanish Flu by the time he returned home. He says his namesake, Wattie Waiomio, took it upon himself to bury those who fell to the Spanish Flu in the iwi and in the community, that the devastation that was experienced in that generation is what has guided them today.

The marae committee has even closed doors to hui mate.

Halliday says, "The trustees of Akerama Marae have made the decision to close our doors to any large hui, including hui mate.  We're hoping our whānau will accept our decision and take their tūpāpaku to their house and keep the numbers down."

While they say it won't be a permanent fixture, the marae will be taking advice from their local DHB.

Cooper says, "Safety is the first issue and we understand that tikanga has to change."

"If the health boards can come up with a solution for us so everyone is safe yes, we'll open our doors up again to hui mate," says Halliday.
For now, the health of their greater community is most important.