We have all seen and felt firsthand how rising costs, especially for kai, have impacted on whānau. With winter upon us, heating adds to the list of outgoings and places even more pressure on the weekly budget.

The Government’s Winter Energy Payment starts from May 1, which will be a welcome relief for many, but that alone is not going to solve the issue of energy hardship.

On Monday, we hosted the Energy Hardship Expert Panel Chair Keri Brown and Panel Member Helen Leahy for a session on proposed strategies to tackle energy hardship. It was saddening to hear many stories about “eating or heating”, and it was clear that for many there is no choice.

We have heard a lot from the sector on this issue and it is time to hear from whānau.

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu will make a submission on the panel’s proposed strategies in Te Kore, Te Pō, Te Ao Marama | Energy Hardship: the challenges and a way forward and I encourage you all to do the same. We all have the right to a warm whare. If you are renting, don’t be whakamā about asking for improvements. Find out more here.

As we approach Rā Maumaha ki ngā hoi o Aotearoa me Ahitereiria on Tuesday, I am thinking of my great Uncle Manukura Hapuku who served with the Māori (Pioneer) Battalion. He saw fierce fighting with the Pioneers at the Battle of Messines (June 7-14, 1917) and later at Passchendaele.

Unfortunately, my great Uncle, like so many, never returned and was killed in action on December 7, 1917. His final resting place is at the Birr Cross Roads Cemetery, Flanders Belgium. It has been a long-held wish to visit him, and I hope to do that later this year.

The first Māori Contingent to serve overseas left New Zealand in early 1915, initially in a combat role at Gallipoli before being reorganised to serve on the Western Front. More than 2220 Māori served in what became known as the (Māori) Pioneer Battalion, later shortened to ‘Diggers’.

Decades later in World War II, more than 3600 tāne Māori served in the Māori Battalion, which was organised into four rifle parties along tribal lines. Tāne from Te Waipounamu were part of D Company, which also took in part of Te Ika-a-Māui, including Waikato, Taranaki, Manawatū and Wairarapa.

Māori men also served with other units and in the home guard, while our wāhine served as nurses and in the women’s auxiliaries. In total, almost 16,000 Māori, more than 10 per cent of the Māori population, volunteered for the war effort between 1939 and 1945.

On Tuesday, we remember all of our tūpuna who served, the fallen and the survivors.

Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou – We will remember them.

He Tukutuku Toiora

In the Motueka Valley, there is no slowing down for Mihau and Valetta Sówika, of Matariki Mushrooms.

Not only do they focus on growing native mushrooms, they are also firmly focused on cultivating awareness. In 2021, Mihau and Valetta launched pilot project Heal the Whenua, in collaboration with Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu and Te Āwhina Marae, to look at ways of using fungi to break down toxins from the environment. They have also provided support and training to whānau and hapori members on how to grow their own mushrooms, launched an at-home mushroom growing kit and designed and delivered an at-home course for tamariki.

Last week we were privileged to attend the launch of Valetta’s new pukapuka, Family of Forest and Fungi – He Tukutuku Toiora at Motueka Public Library. “He tukutuku toiora” translates as “a network of life” and refers to the role of fungi as an interconnector of Papatūānuku. The book, which is targeted at 8- to 12-year-olds, has been illustrated by award-winning children’s book illustrator Isobel Joy Te Aho-White, and includes te reo translations by local reo kaiako, Hana Park.

Valetta and Michael have not just created a book – they have impacted the lives of so many whānau for the better. We look forward to seeing what further magic they bring!

Funders roadshow in Marlborough

Whānau Ora Champion Te Rā Morris toured Marlborough this week as part of the Marlborough Funders Workshops, held annually to let the community know about options for community funding in their respective areas. Workshops were held in Havelock, Picton and Blenheim and there was a great turnout at all sessions. Te Rā highlighted the youth focused Tama Ora and Ruia funds, which are due to open for applications on May 1. A big mihi to the organisers – we appreciate every opportunity to highlight support available for whānau.

Harakeke Village

Heylie Palahame (Te Āti Awa, Rangitāne, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Ngāti Porou) established Harakeke Village in Blenheim with the aim of enriching the lives of whānau Māori by building identity and strengthening hauora through aroha, manaakitanga, kotahitanga and whanaungatanga. In the Tinana Ora section of Harakeke Village, whānau can take part in physical activities such as aqua-jogging, boxing, poi-fit, walking and netball. “It’s all about encouraging whānau to live healthy lifestyles and to tackle that in a holistic way, looking at everything from physical health to mental, emotional, social and spiritual health,” Heylie says. Click here to read more about Heylie and her pakihi.

Hana Morris being interviewed live Breakfast.

Proud aunties

This week Whānau Ora Champion in Te Tauihu, Te Rā Morris, was in the office when he received a text from his daughter, Hana, saying she had landed in LA.

“Have fun dancing with your friends,” he wrote. Many of our kaimahi were more than exited to discover Hana’s “friends” just happen to be K-POP megagroup BLACKPINK! And the event she was dancing at, Coachella in Colorado!

Hana is a well-respected dancer, performer and choreographer and over the past few years has travelled across the globe working with international artists.

Back at the office in Ōtautahi we certainly have some proud Aunties! We look forward to watching Hana’s journey on the international stage. You can watch her live TV interview with Breakfast here.