This week I have been thinking about the ripple effects of major events like the pandemic, the flooding in the north, and of course our own experiences here in Ōtautahi during the earthquakes. Like rivers change their course, rather than end abruptly when faced with an obstacle, major events like this do not just end, they trickle down and take new pathways.
This time last year, we were still largely glued to daily COVID-19 numbers, took all the accompanying precautions seriously and, importantly, there was support available for those in isolation. I am happy to have moved on from those days, but the reality is that COVID–19 has not gone away.
Te Whatu Ora reported 3764 cases of COVID-19 nationally last week and 24 deaths associated with the virus, 10 of those were in Te Waipounamu. In other words, it is still having an impact in our communities. Within our network of Whānau Ora Navigators and partners, there are still stories daily of whānau being pushed to the limit, with sick tamariki, annual leave and sick day entitlements long gone and ever-rising bills to pay.
While it may not be a hot topic politically as we head into the election, it is still important to address and have the flexibility to respond to needs on the ground. We are kidding ourselves that it is over and whānau are coping. We will continue to lobby for support in this space and also highlight the continuing challenges for whānau.
The need to be flexible – and plan – was also a theme at Ihi Aotearoa | Sport New Zealand’s Connections 2023 conference held earlier this week.
The opening speaker was Dr Rod Carr, Chair of the Climate Change Commission, who urged the sport and recreation sector to take a more hands-on approach to climate change.
“Outdoor sports events are likely to be more disrupted, more often. You need to accept that and plan for it – rather than hope it won’t happen to your event on the day.”
We also heard from sporting groups caught up in Cyclone Gabrielle and those who banded together to use their community networks to offer support. We heard that the ability to act quickly – and have the resources to be able to do that – is vital in an emergency.
How does Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu and Whānau Ora fit into all of this? I think back to those initial days of lockdown, and the speed at which we were able to renegotiate contracts with our Whānau Ora partners and entities, check-in to see what was needed and deliver support. Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu had supplies on a plane to Wharekauri/Rēkohu immediately, there was no waiting around for layers of bureaucracy to say yes to a community they had never met. The Whānau Ora way is naturally nimble because we do not prescribe what whānau need to aspire to or what their needs are; whānau already know that, we just help to facilitate.
Having said that, I want to remain focused on preparing as best we can and look deeper into how we as the commissioning agency can continue to be as responsive as possible, both in normal times and in times of disaster.
As Dr Carr said: “What I know is we will be better off if we get on with this now.”
Kia pai tō wā whakatā.