Over the past week, our thoughts have inevitably turned to Tāmaki Makaurau, and to the many whānau and hapori who have been affected by the extreme weather and flooding. It has been sobering to see the impact it has had – from loss of life and injury to damaged homes and infrastructure that will undoubtedly take weeks or months to repair.

We mihi to the incredible Te Pae Herenga o Tāmaki, the regional Whānau Ora Collective. Their teams have been working around the clock to deliver a coordinated response, offering tautoko to whānau throughout the rohe. Their deep knowledge of and connection to the communities they serve mean that they are perfectly placed to get support to where it is most needed – this is the power of Whānau Ora, and we feel a strong sense of pride and solidarity as we have seen their response roll out over the past days.

As with any extreme weather event, this week has served as a reminder that climate change will touch us all – if it has not already. Here in Te Waipounamu, we have faced our own extreme weather events, most recently in Te Tauihu and Kawatiri, and we know how devastating the aftermath can be for families and indeed entire communities. It is important that we do our best to prepare for emergencies, and to that end we are grateful to be able to share an incredible resource that can help whānau navigate unexpected scenarios. Put together by Te Kotahi o Te Tauihu, the Rautaki ā Whānau prompts us to think about the steps we will need to take to be prepared in the case of an emergency. I encourage everyone to download it and put some time into making sure your whare is as ready as it can be.

Minister Henare (centre front) with our directors and kaimahi during a recent visit

Business as usual for Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu following Cabinet reshuffle

Earlier this week, our new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins announced some changes to Cabinet. We were pleased to learn that Hon Peeni Henare has retained the Whānau Ora portfolio, providing a steady hand and continuity to our mahi. We have built a strong relationship with Minister Henare and look forward to continuing to work with him. We were also pleased to see other members of the Labour Māori Caucus earn a promotion: Ministers Kiritapu Allan and Willie Jackson join Kelvin Davis on the front bench, while Minister Rino Tirikatene picked up the portfolio for Courts and Trade and Export Growth. We also acknowledge the mahi of Hon Nanaia Mahuta during her time as Local Government Minister. You can read more about our response to the Cabinet reshuffle here.

Wave 17 roadshows – relationships and connection

This week our team have continued their round of Wave 17 roadshows, travelling through Otago and Murihiku to connect with whānau. It has been an amazing week and our kaimahi have shared in the dreams and aspirations of whānau and have come away buzzing from the connections made and kōrero shared. It was a reminder of our collective purpose to create better outcomes for whānau, and it was truly incredible to see the energy rise in the room as each workshop progressed, as whānau began to believe in their own potential.

In Dunedin, we were hosted by Lisa and the team at Skillsec – one of our Whānau Ora Navigation partners. We were pleased to have 17 whānau attend, as well as support from local Whānau Ora Navigators and the regional Te Puni Kōkiri team.

We were amazed by the turnout of 58 whānau at the Ascot Hotel in Invercargill, with the room filled to capacity with both dreams and people. Past and current Wave entities came along to encourage new applications, as well as kaimahi from local partners and providers. Our Pou Whirinaki, Vanessa Whangapirita stood before us and challenged whānau to think about their dreams – and shared that her dream had come true to see the aroha and passion in the room.

Our next stop was Te Rau Aroha Marae in Bluff, where we were privileged to experience the mana of the marae and the whānau who work tirelessly within its walls and beyond. It was such a special place to spend time with whānau, and our southern champions were alongside us to provide that added layer of tautoko to whānau who are considering applying for Wave 17.

The workshop in Te Anau was smaller, giving us the opportunity to connect and engage with all participants, before we headed to Queenstown where we were hosted by Shyla Hona at ASB Tāhuna. Once again, our regional Whānau Ora Navigators were there to support the event and spread the kōrero within their hapori.

I want to acknowledge the incredible support of our champions in the community – whānau, past Wave recipients, Whānau Ora Navigators, our Whānau Ora partners and the wider hapori who came to tautoko both whānau and the kaupapa.  I also want to acknowledge the hard-working kaimahi who have been out on the road meeting with whānau over these past weeks. The kaimahi did say it did not feel like work and rather that they were inspired by the diversity of ideas and incredible kaupapa that whānau want to realise and bring to life.  A beautiful reminder to us all just how privileged we are to be in this space.

Last year we visited Te Tai Poutini to capture the beautiful story of Andrew Norton-Taylor of NFM Firewood and Coal. One of our successful Wave 16 applicants, Andrew started his own business in 2021 in order to create a better lifestyle for his young whānau, and to meet a need that he saw within his local community. Two years later, his hard work has paid off: he can set his own hours and spend time with his tamariki, and he has earned a reputation for providing a friendly and personalised service that sets him apart from bigger firewood companies in the region. Check out the video to learn more about NFM Firewood, and click here to read Andrew’s story.