Looking after themselves through Covid the only option for Hokianga community

By Whatitiri Te Wake

With a lack of adequate Covid-19 advice and support from authorities, the small Hokianga settlement of Panguru has taken matters into its own hands, creating its own Covid-19 hapu response plan.

As Delta inches its way north, locals have become concerned over how far they are from essential services should there be a Delta outbreak in their community.

Local school principal and community leader Mina Pōmare Peita says the people of Panguru are resilient and agile and have wasted no time putting a response plan together to keep Covid-19 out and away from the 800-odd locals.

“Horekau nga pohi ngā rangatira o ngā ratonga e tino haere mai ana, e tino rongo ki ō mātou nei hiahia no reira huihui ana mātou me o mātou whanaunga me aha e mara?”

“Some services aren't coming here, they're not listening to us and our needs - so we've held meetings with our relatives to discuss what we are going to do,” she said.

With the government poised to relax restrictions once the country hits its 90% vaccination target, this has left these locals with more questions than answers. Margaret Ngaropo Hati doesn’t believe the needs of her community were considered in the development of this strategy

“I whakaaro pērā mātou, I huri tuara mai te kāwanatanga i a mātou. I reira ka toko ake te whakaaro kia whakaritrea e mātou he mahere he mahere mo te kāinga.”

Panguru plan

“That's what we thought, that the government turned its back on us. It was then that we decided to create our own plan and strategy for our home.”

"He hapu rangatiratanga tenei nā te mea e noho ana mātou ki tēnei taha o te puke, to tātou maunga a Panguru me ngā maunga katoa o tēnei wāhi. Nā, e tawhiti ana mātou"

"Its tribal self-determination. We live on this side of our mountain, Panguru and all the mountains, so we are isolated. But we’re our own bosses” she said.

In Level 4 lockdown last year they established roadblocks as a measure to keep Covid-19 at bay, using community power to work the blocks 24 hours a day. She say one result of the community coming together was creating a central location for whānau to access accurate and up-to-date Covid information.

The ‘Te Kupenga’ Facebook page acts as a community notice board, and a platform to access data, research and reports by Māori health experts

“Ia rā ka tuku atu i ngā kōrero ki te kupenga. Ngā kōrero e hāngai ana ki ngā kēhi oTe Tai Tokerau, e hia ngā kēhi i Te Tai Tokerau, e hia ngā kēhi ki Kaitāia.”

“Every day we're posting information on the Te Kupenga page. The information on cases in Te Tai Tokerau, how many cases in Te Tai Tokerau, how many are in Kaitāia as well.”

Looking for permanent solution

They say vaccinations and testing in their community are minimal, with pop-up vaccinations coming into the community only once a fortnight. They now have their sights set on a more permanent solution in preparation for potential outbreaks

“E hiahia ana mātou kia whakatūngia tetahi whare manaaki pera ki te MIQ me tetahi whare whakamātautau, whare mataitai, whare tirotiro he whare ka tū motuhake ki tēnei kāinga o tātou”

“We want to establish a building like an MIQ and also a triage centre for our area.”

They have new concerns with summer fast approaching and descendants from across the country looking to return home.

“Koira te wā ka hoki kaha mai o tātou whanaunga, ngā tini karangamaha e noho ana ki wāhi kē atu. Ka pehea tātou e tiaki i tō tātou kāinga i raro i ēnei āhuaranga me te mōhio, ko Tāmaki Makaurau te tino pū o tenei mate”

“That's the time we see our relatives who live away come back. So how do we continue to care for our families under the current climate knowing that Auckland is the epicentre of the outbreak?”