Mobilising the whole community to get rid of 'P'

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

The Wairoa community are backing a kūia's call to stamp out 'P' or methamphetamine, which Wairoa Deputy Mayor Denise Eaglesom-Karekare says is "rampant" throughout the town.

Mere Kokiri-Tamanui of Ngāti Kōhatu has had enough, “Ngā pakeke, we are in emotional bankruptcy, why?  Because at 70, you weren't supposed to be doing this mahi.”

Behind the march is Wikitoria Hauraki of Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairoa. 

“Like one of them said, 'what's going to happen to them when I die? If I die? What's going to happen to them?' So that's basically it really," says Hauraki.

Denise Eaglesom-Karekare is also worried about the destructive effects of methamphetamine on whānau. 

“We've got children who go home after school, their parents are high. They need somewhere to go because they feel scared- and we've got meth users that need to take the first step.”

With Dame Whina Cooper as an example, they're marching for the future of their grandchildren.

Kokiri-Tamanui says, “They're the financial tamariki that are supporting their lifestyle when you got four kids, you got quite a bit of money coming.”

Hauraki says, “You can't say nobody's not affected, that's how bad it is, everybody's affected, from the whānau, hapū, marae, within the community they're all affected."

A midwife at Wairoa Health Tungane Kani says, “The trauma is affecting the mother, the grandmother, the entire family.”

Hauraki wants the community to face up to the issue honestly.

“I think we need to stop pussyfooting around and say 'this is the reality of it, this is what it's about' and I think once we start doing that then we can get our whānau well.”

Families, police, the Wairoa District Council and health service staff all gathered to support the call to explore ways in which the community can remedy this issue.

"Our mayor is here, he's walking with us, our councillors are walking with us because they believe that this has to stop we need to start helping our whānau," says Eaglesom-Karekare.

Kani says, “We’ve seen the pain of those who are helping their grandchildren, who are trying to help their grandchildren, it's extremely difficult- and Oranga Tamariki come in with their issues for the child.”

A temporary respite centre has been set up to assist grandparents who are acting caregivers.

Eaglesom-Karekare says, “This base will hopefully give them that first step, it's not the answer, we're working on that.”

“We're looking at education, health, what's available to these kids that have learning and behavioural difficulties and if their health is suffering- what do we need to do?" says Hauraki.

The aim now is for the respite centre to become a permanent service that can provide relief for caregivers.