Marae want louder voice in Civil Defence national plan

By Talisa Kupenga

Many marae step-up and open their doors during emergencies but are only classed as spontaneous volunteers in response efforts despite helping the public in times of need.  Sir Mark Solomon says more funding should be available for marae at the coalface.

Politicians back at parliament agree that marae should have a seat at the table.

National’s Port Hills MP Nuk Korako says, "Absolutely.  We’ve been through earthquakes, we’ve been through fire and marae are on the front line.”

Community and Voluntary sector Peeni Henare says, “Āe marika- yes”

Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta agrees, "It is time to look at how to do that."

National MP Jo Hayes says "[marae] are the first responder.  I'd like to see more funding go towards them, perhaps Te Arawhiti might put that on their books."

Marae are currently offering shelter to those affected by the Nelson fires.

In the past, marae helped thousands during the Edgecumbe floods and Kaikoura earthquakes.

Former Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu chief executive Sir Mark Solomon says that during the Kaikoura quakes there was a disconnect between civil defence and iwi.

“It was that intense that it took Ngai Tahu eight days to break into the processes and I think that’s silly because we had all our marae open basically straight after.

"There needs to be a relationship directly with Civil Defence, they need to have communications and protocols, not just with iwi authorities but at the marae level because it’s the marae that will open up and take in people." 

Ngai Tahu's Kaikoura response cost more than $1mil.  While some Civil Defence funding is available to reimburse any facility, including marae, that provides meals and accommodation, very few know about it.

Solomon says, "There needs to be help there because normally marae are grassroots, they do not have a lot of money but what they are good at is looking after people on the marae.”

Civil Defence Minister Kris Faafoi says the government is making improvements to the system, which includes a focus on the way Civil Defence works with marae and iwi.

He says getting iwi around the planning table at a regional level is key but he wouldn't pre-empt any budget announcements for funding.