Eight months after our first nationwide lockdown in 2020, our whānau took a couple of days off and travelled to Te Tauihu where eight of my great grandparents are buried across Wakapuaka; Marsden Valley; Appleby; Motueka and Riuwaka. As part of that trip we walked into the beautiful Kahurangi National Park, to the Riuwaka Resurgence. The damp forest, crystal clear water, tranquil pools, and moss-covered marble rock created an idyllic place to heal.

Te Puna o Riuwaka is of particular cultural significance to Te Atiawa and Ngāti Rārua. It is a wahi tapu, a sacred, supernatural place where the tūpuna would come to cleanse and heal their bodies and sustain their spirits.

At the start of the trail to the puna, the information board says:

For Māori, every river has its own mauri or life force. Rivers are the veins of Papatūānuku, Earth Mother, and the water in them is her lifeblood. Rivers nourish all living beings and link us with ancestors. Te Puna o Riuwaka has special mana or status, because from here springs waiora – the waters of life.

I have been thinking about that beautiful puna as the nation’s attention this week has been drawn to Motueka in the sudden outbreak of Omicron.

At the time of writing there are 16 confirmed cases and one probable case in the region, across three households.

More than 2100 people across Nelson and Marlborough have been tested for the virus since the first case was announced. On Tuesday, 2423 vaccinations were administered across Nelson Marlborough – 1909 adult doses and 378 paediatric doses. The region has also reached 90 percent partially vaccinated and 85 percent fully vaccinated for Māori.

If ever there was a time that we need to be restored to full health; to keep our whānau close; and to maintain the basic health practices that will protect us, it is now.

Of course our thoughts are not just with whānau in Motueka. There are now active cases being treated as Omicron in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Palmerston North, and Nelson-Tasman. What we know, too, is that the number of cases and contacts are expected to grow given the highly transmissible nature of Omicron.

This is when vigilance is required; dedication to doing all that we can to stamp this virus variant out. It was so very pleasing this week to also learn that in Canterbury 90% of Māori have now been double vaccinated.

The locations and opening hours of all testing centres can be found on the Healthpoint website, and details of the Nelson-Tasman centres are below:

  • Nelson: Saxton Field parking area, Suffolk Rd, Stoke – Monday – Sunday: 9am-6pm
  • Motueka: Motueka Recreation Centre, Old Wharf Rd – Monday – Sunday: 9am-5pm (until 4 February)

Waikawa Marae Vaccination Clinic

Meanwhile across the bay at Waikawa, it was wonderful to see a vaccination clinic being established at Waikawa Marae with the support of the Nelson/Marlborough Primary Health Organisation.

Waikawa marae put together an off the cuff vaccination clinic for their community with the love and support from our Whānau Ora kaimahi, including Arhan Haate from Wave initiative Kōhatu Kai, Renee Love from Kōanga Kai, Navigator Tinana Yvonne Skipper and Whānau Ora Navigator Marcia MacDonald

The Kōhatu Kai truck was there supporting all the whānau. Kōhatu Kai is a whānau owned and operated business, they are a mobile hangi and catering service who serve the Wairau, Waitohi and Waikawa rohe. The Kōhatu Kai philosophy is: “Kai Māori should be accessible, affordable, and obtainable for everyone to enjoy.”

The Kōhatu Kai crew

Office response to Omicron outbreak

After the country’s shift to the red setting at the beginning of the week, Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu has implemented a hybrid remote working arrangement. Our kaimahi have been separated into two teams – Te Maihi and Te Amo – and will alternate between working at the office and working from home. This allows us to continue our mahi while allowing for physical distancing, and minimising the potential for staff to feel disconnected over long durations at home.

We are also asking manuhiri to Te Whenua Taurikura to wear a mask while onsite and to scan in and present their vaccine pass at reception.

Te Kīwai reopening next week

 Our Te Kīwai fund has been closed over the summer period, and we are looking forward to reopening it next week on 31 January, to coincide with the school year. Te Kīwai is one of the two funds we offer in partnership with Sport New Zealand | Ihi Aotearoa, designed to help tamariki and rangatahi Māori stay active. Whānau can apply to Te Kīwai for up to $300 towards the costs of participating in sports and recreation – whether that’s club fees, uniforms and gear, travel costs and more.

We’ve used the break to refine our application process, and whānau will hopefully find the new form easier to complete. Visit the Te Kīwai page from Monday to apply for funding.

Kai & Kutz

This week we are celebrating with one of our amazing whānau entities, who welcomed a new pēpi into their whānau. Mahu and Lydia Maireriki are the creators of Kai & Kutz, a totally unique Ashburton business that specialises in Pacific Island takeaways, hair cuts and Pasifika merchandise. Last year they received Wave funding to pilot a job mentoring programme, Starfish Enterprise, for Pacific Island and Māori youth and adults. They placed several youth with external companies as well as within their own business. In addition to the work experience, participants attended workshops on budgeting and CV creation, and toured ARA to see future training possibilities. Participants gained new skills, greater confidence, and income that helped support their whānau. Participation in the programme directly lead to regular employment and an apprenticeship for multiple participants.

Kai & Kutz is a beautiful celebration of culture and whānau, and we congratulate Mahu and Lydia on their new arrival.

Wave 16 workshops

This week our team adapted quickly in response to shift our remaining Wave 16 workshops online. We were disappointed not to connect kanohi ki te kanohi with whānau in Hokitika, Westport and Ōtautahi, but were pleased to see great turn out to our Zoom sessions. Our workshops have been so well attended that we have scheduled a final Zoom session for Wednesday 16 February. This is just over a week before Wave 16 closes, and will be a great opportunity for whānau to check in and make sure their application is on track. You can click here to access the Zoom link for this session.