Local health hero acknowledged as a Kiwibank medallist

By Muriwai Hei

Tūranga Health chief executive Reweti Ropiha has been made a Kiwibank local hero medallist for his work during the pandemic to help his region get vaccinated.

Since then, he has created local vaccination clinics and has developed a way for people to safely isolate by building 20 emergency housing pods on the local marae. 

In 2021 the pandemic traffic light system was announced, and it was decided that vaccination rates had to improve in the Gisborne area. So Tūranga Health came up with a strategy to lift those rates for Māori, by Māori.

"Alongside the whānau was our ability to think as Māori so Māori thinking was the crux of doing that," Ropiha says. "So the spaces of manaaki, the notion that we will do whatever it takes to connect us in our own backyard or going out to a forestry den at 6 am In the morning, all those sorts of things.

Reweti Rophia becomes NZ's local hero of 2022.

'Face-to face kōrero'

"And the other thing about the pods was the opportunity to have the cabins connected to one of the marae here, which was providing options for whānau if they were unfortunate enough to get Covid-19, other than what was currently on the hospital domain, to have these spaces in communities." 

Strategies included visiting whānau at home and offering face-to-face kōrero. Ropiha was driven to provide opportunities for people to engage with the science about the virus and vaccines in ways that suited them - visiting parks and playgrounds, getting on the phones. Since then he’s led the way by creating local vaccination clinics and has developed a way for people to isolate safely,

Ropiha is an active face in the community and is also involved with Te Runanga o Turanganui a Kiwa, Ngai Tamanuhiri Whanui Trust and the Turanganui Primary Health Organisation.

He says he is truly grateful for the acknowledgement he got in "putting up the hauora, pulling up the kaimahi, and all those thousands of faces and so the acknowledgement comes with the health space".