Ngāti Awa fly vital supplies to isolated Motiti Island

By Te Ao - Māori News
The pilot with Te Tohu o Te Ora o Ngati Awa CEO Enid Ratahi-Pryor and staff Reina Hale, Des Harawira, Moana Delaney and Jess Faga loading up food for Mōtītī Island whānau during lockdown - Photo / Supplied

The lockdown left the 40 Ngāti Awa descendants on Motiti Island in the Bay of Plenty region cut off from kai and generator fuel supplies. So mainland based Ngāti Awa descendants kicked into action, chartering flights to deliver vital supplies to their relatives on the island.

Enid Ratahi-Pryor, Chief Executive Te Tohu o Te Ora o Ngāti Awa, said the island whānau could usually order online groceries but the lockdown was put in place so quickly and flights couldn’t operate.

“They were cut off and without food for a period of time. Our iwi was focused on helping whānau that were most vulnerable like kaumātua who couldn’t make it to the supermarket, single parents with children and those with chronic conditions.”

“It was important that our hapū were not forgotten or ignored and that we were aware of these hardships associated with living on the island,” she says.

Ratahi-Pryor says the Mōtītī scenario came up because there were kaumātua on the island. Te Tohu o Te Ora o Ngāti Awa worked alongside Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa to get supplies together.

Te Puni Kōkiri assisted with funding to support Māori communities during COVID-19 which was distributed through the regions. This approach recognised Māori entities could help whānau that needed it most using established local connections. 

There were some issues that Ngāti Awa had to navigate, including obtaining the diesel needed to run the generators on the island. They had to negotiate with food providers to buy in bulk. This was complicated due to supply restrictions imposed by supermarkets. The supermarkets were experiencing the same demand levels as at Christmastime coming up to the lockdown.

“We needed to bulk order but there was some confusion around what was possible and there was a multitude of issues to make sure our staff were safe during the process. We had to negotiate directly with supermarkets to get around the restrictions of only 2 loaves of bread per customer as we needed 400 individual items,” Ratahi-Pryor says.

She says they put together 14 kaumātua packs and another bulk food package for the wider whānau to be distributed through Motiti Marae.

“We had fresh meat from Ngāti Awa farm along with veges, fruit, flour, sugar and other goods to meet the needs of our island whānau.”

Ngāti Awa chartered two planes to deliver the kai and fuel. Whānau from Motiti Island poured in their gratitude on a Facebook post about the food supplies arriving.

“Enid and her team, have been working long and hard hours alongside Te Rūnanga o Ngati Awa on a response that is meaningful and valued for and by our iwi,” Puti Koopu writes.

“Tū meke Ngāti Awa, thank you for making sure ngā pakeke o Motiti are not forgotten or stranded,” Ngaro Wikeepa says.

The people of the River continue to stand strong in the face of adversity.