WelCom February 2017:
Riria Allen, Te Tai o Marokura
After the earthquake hit Kaikōura on 14 November, I climbed high to try to contact whānau by cellphone. From the top of the hill, I could see the dust from the mountains around Kaikōura, as landslides continued. And I could see the rocks and land that had come up because the sea floor had risen.
Mountains falling and sea beds rising – these are not just changes to the physical landscape. As Ngāti Kurī, we introduce ourselves first by our relationship to our mountains and our sea. Seeing our mountains fall and changes to our sea are changes to our core identity.
We are starting to move beyond the intensity of the first few weeks after the earthquake and moving on to the next stages of recovery. But anyone who lived through the first days of the earthquake has a new respect for the importance and value of water. It didn’t matter if you had $5 or $5000 in the bank, you could only have one bottle of water in those early days.
We valued having our whānau close, and that was more important than losing homes and possessions. As most Kiwis know, Māori organisations were at the forefront of the earthquake response. Thousands of meals were provided by Takahanga Marae. Equally, our kaupapa Māori health and social-service centre was busy contacting all our clients and vulnerable community members to ensure they had what they needed.
Now that we are passed those initial difficult days, we are helping our community adjust to the ‘new normal’ in which people are still facing the issues they were dealing with before the quake – family conflict, health issues like diabetes and so on – but in a context of greater homelessness, reduced employment and much greater difficulties travelling to the main centres for things like specialist appointments.
We were delighted to have Cardinal John Dew celebrate Miha Māori with us in December, and to have Catholic social services and Challenge 2000 with us in January. They were with us helping to run youth programmes, caring for the carers, and helping us plan ahead for the coming year. Our hapū has been here for generations, and we will be here for our whānau and all the communities of Kaikōura in the coming months and years ahead.
Riria is a member of Star of the Sea Parish and Manager of Te Tai o Marokura, which is the kaupapa Māori social services in Kaikōura based at Takahanga Marae.