Native Affairs - Ngāti Awa Volunteer Army

When the Edgecumbe flood struck last month Winnie and Simon Geddes went in search of the Civil Defence manual to find out how best to organise a volunteer army. They found nothing, so they worked late into the night to formulate an iwi based manual.

It’s become a model that Civil Defence may apply to other regions throughout the country.

Winnie is the woman behind the Ngati Awa Volunteer Army who have been praised for their clean-up efforts.

Winnie’s drop-in centres, marae and social media have played a crucial role helping the community rebuild. Any whānau who wanted help cleaning up their homes have been contacting her through social media and she gets things moving.

She deliberately included marae to ensure iwi had a presence in the heart of the Civil Defence operations.

Winnie’s experience during the aftermath of the 1987 Edgecumbe earthquake taught her that unless Maori were assertive they’d be last in the queue for help.

The two local councils in the Edgecumbe district are now saying the volunteer army should be wound down but Winnie says there’s still too much work to do.