Seeking a Māori response to Covid-19

By Tumamao Harawira

"Before we start the work, let's have a karakia." Those were the words of Manurewa marae kaumātua Tūnuiārangi Mclean, before another big day of delivering care packages to poor families throughout the South Auckland district.

This approach is at the core of calls for a Māori response to Covid-19.

Manurewa Marae has teamed up with the Department of Corrections to deliver care packages to poor families following community transmission of the coronavirus and Auckland's subsequent lockdown to Level 3, and now Level 2.

 Tash Kemp of Manurewa Marae was surprised by the government's decision to take Auckland to Alert Level 2. "We were surprised by the government's response, knowing there were other cases, other community cases out in South Auckland. It was surprising to see that we were coming down to Alert Level 2."

Now Manurewa Marae is calling for a co-ordinated Māori Covid-19 response, grounded in tikanga Māori and manaakitanga.

Māori-centric mahi

"We are quite capable of putting up a Māori response, we want to provide a Māori response," Kemp says. "But it's not necessarily targeted from government around a specific Māori response."

What is becoming an issue for Manurewa Marae is the lack of Covid response-specific funding, meaning that other areas of the marae's work are going without.

"So we don't get specific Covid pūtea, we are not funded like that. But we get up and utilise what we have to deliver to whānau."

Even on the sniff of an oily rag, rain, hail, coronavirus or shine, no matter what, Manurewa marae will continue to feed the widowed, the destitute and the poor.

According to Pare Rauwhero, who lives in South Auckland, and is involved with the rehabilitation of Māori women in prison there is much love in the work that Manurewa marae does." It is very much Māori-centric the work that they do.

" It's about our marae, our many marae, and our families who live near these marae. There is no problem, there is heaps of love."