South Island whānau use up $1.8m of Covid response fund in four weeks

By Mare Haimona-Riki

The South Island Whānau Ora agency Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu's Covid response fund has run out of money.

Chief Executive Helen Leahy says more people have come to them for help in the last month than all of last year - a total of 60,000 whānau members in just four weeks.

“So 14,000 whānau applications have come to Puna to help them get through lockdown and to find a little bit of support, as they are struggling with the impacts of low employment and being in a situation without the material means to get by.”

Although Puna received $1.8 million in funding from the $23 million funding boost for Whanau Ora that Minister Peeni Henare announced earlier this month, it has not been enough, Leahy says.

“We used $1 million for our 56 Whānau Ora partners, and 117 navigators that are funded out of that $1 million, so it was really important to get material resources to those whanau.  

“But It simply hasn’t been able to cover the exponential growth and demand during this last Delta lockdown.

She says the struggles that whanau are facing are a “compound” of hardships that go beyond not having enough food on the table.

"It’s not just about the kai."

“They (whanau) were also facing high power bills, their homes are cold, due to winter conditions, and they were spending a lot more on groceries because family members had come home, so all of those factors together triggered the situation that they found themselves in."