Ngāti Hine take lessons from the past in setting up checkpoint

By Tumamao Harawira

Photo/NZ Herald

Ngāti Hine in Northland has resurrected their iwi-led checkpoint in Waiomio on State Highway 1.

On Thursday Northland dropped to alert level 3 following just over two weeks in lockdown. The region was given the all clear after Covid-19 wastewater tests came back negative despite a rest home worker in Warkworth (on Northland's border with Tāmaki) testing positive.

Pita Tipene of Ngāti Hine says his people were ready for the alert level drop, but they have fears of an influx of Aucklanders fleeing the region's lockdown.

"We approached the police, they've supported us and the various other component parts that we need to make sure we keep everybody safe." Tipene said.

"We have got the Ngāti Hine Health trust team here giving out pamphlets and information about vaccinations and any other help that people may need during these testing times"

Learning history's lessons

Pita Tipene argues the decision to establish a checkpoint in Ngāti Hine's rohe comes down to safety and history.

In 1917, the H1N1 strain of influenza or Spanish Flu, swept the world, reaching Aotearoa in the early summer of 2018. It was carried home by soldiers returning from Europe at the end of the First World War and killed over 8,000 people.

Māori were the worst affected with over 2,160 dying at a death rate 8 times that of non-Māori. (42 per 1000 Māori vs 5 per 1000 non-Māori)

"Some of the graves don't even have concrete slabs and or headstones on them. There are a whole lot of them with no names because history tells us that our people were dying so quickly they were being buried in mass graves and there was no time for grieving, some of the gravediggers had died burying their whānau" Pita said.

"When one of our whāea, Hera Henare (nee Subritsky) contracted the Spanish flu in Devonport from the returning soldiers coming back from World War I, she was brought home to Mōtatau. In the grieving process, and against advice, our people then opened her coffin to touch her. That resulted in a huge amount of deaths" Pita added.

Tino Rangatiratanga - Personal choice

Pita says he acknowledges Tino Rangatiratanga is about individual choice, but is imploring his people to think about vaccination to protect from the current pandemic.

"I decided to have the vaccination and encourage everybody to have the vaccination as well... That is my message 'Get vaccinated', let's stick together as the team of 5 million." he said.