Māori Wardens receive desperately needed funding

By Taroi Black

Until today a Māori Wardens group preparing to pay for and distribute Christmas kai and gifts for hundreds of homes was worried about how it was going to pay for it.

But today the Auckland Central Māori Wardens, based in Otahuhu, checked their bank account and discovered the Ministry of Social Development had transferred $15,500 through the Community Capability and Resilience Fund (CCRF), which they had applied for so their services could continue.

Branch chair Thomas Henry says, “It's about sharing at this time where some of our whānau are finding it hard.”

Groups such as local marae, whānau, hapū, iwi, multicultural councils, ethnic community organisations, faith-based, religious and church groups, community access radio stations, community hubs, not for profit organisations and social enterprises, other community-based interest groups can apply for the CCRF funding.  

It assists community groups supporting the most vulnerable as they look to rebuild and recover from the impacts of Covid-19, general manager Pacific and community capability programmes Serena Curtis-Lemuelu says.

Applications from the current round have now been assessed and applicants are about to hear as the Maori Wardens did today.

With unemployment predicted to rise to 6.9% by the end of 2021, the demand to feed the hungry has been extraordinary difficult for the Otahuhu-based group, which works with Otahuhu Budgeting Service to get whānau back on track.

Henry says the response to 500 whanau in need has been"‘mentally, physically and spiritually" challenging for their small team. Meanwhile, volunteer workers who have been the backbone of their organisation, are preparing kai and gifts for 200 vulnerable whānau this Saturday.

“I think the reason why they (whānau) come to our services is that we've been part of the community for well over 20 years.”

Te Puni Kōkiri National Approach

Te Puni Kōkiri operations director Jesse Roth says Māori Wardens have been providing an invaluable volunteering role to support whānau and communities across the country for over 150 years. There are approximately 800 Māori Wardens and one of their strengths is their intimate knowledge of, and close connection with their local communities.

In the annual budgets for Māori Warden groups Te Puni Kōkiri provides training and resources to support the community work they carry out every day. Resourcing includes uniforms, safety equipment and advice from regional coordinators based across the country.

In July 2019 on Turangawaewae Marae the national conference for Māori Wardens voted for modernising their approach to whanau and communities. In response, Te Puni Kōkiri gave $3.75m to implement key strategies in the modernisation programme for over three years.