Native Affairs - Marae Emergency

By Wepiha Te Kanawa

When a disaster hits your town who do you turn to? Nowadays, it's marae heeding the call for help.

After the Eastern Bay of Plenty floods four marae responded Kokohinau and Ruaihoina (Te Teko), Rautahi (Kawerau) and Te Hokowhitu a Tu (near Whakatāne). Food and accommodation was provided for victims, displaced families and volunteers during the flood and recovery period.

Gina Ratema from Kokohinau marae believes they reacted faster than Civil Defence did to house those impacted by the floods. “I think our marae are taking the onus of our own government.

Matthew Harrex the Duty Manager of Emergency Management at the Bay of Plenty Council defended the council’s response. “These things happen really quickly and we made decisions with the best information we had at the time.”

But Ratema says the Civil Defence and marae are disconnected and could work more effectively. A marae emergency kit was developed in the Bay of Plenty and has become a national wide resource to prepare marae to look after themselves during emergencies.

Harrex says, “One of the challenges staff have identified was understanding how marae work and how to engage with marae effectively. And also how the civil defence could integrate in with that structure.”

But marae do not have a formal role in the Civil Defence National Emergency Plan to help with a response.

In the National Civil Defence Emergency Management Plan 2015 marae are considered spontaneous volunteers community members, who offer their services on the spur of the moment, as individuals or as groups, in response to an emergency.

Ratema says marae are taking on more responsibility than a volunteer and should be included in Civil Defence management plans. “The Civil Defence you don't ever hear about them until there is a need. You don't ever see them having plans in place for this sort of stuff, you don't see them until there is an emergency.”

The Civil Defence has funding available to reimburse any facility including Marae that provides meals and accommodation. But few know about it.