Far North REAP

With the philosophy kia ako ia ora, kia ora kia ako (learning to live, living to learn), Far North REAP decided to take the lead to protect an isolated community from COVID-19.

The idea of a blockade was put forth by younger community members as a way to protect Pawarenga’s 43 kāhui kaumātua, as well as the 69 whānau who call the area home. Far North REAP, supporting the idea was an opportunity to protect the wealth of knowledge – whakapapa, history, tikanga and whakaaro – held by the kaumatua.

The kāhui kaumatua decided amongst them that a rāhui (a kind of protective bubble) should be placed over the area, and Far North REAP staff as well as local whānau came onboard over the period of the lockdown to help with the 4 hour shifts per 24 hour period.

A blockade was established physically at the Pawarenga Junction, with the rule that only residents could enter. Whānau came to support with gazebos, barriers and cones, table and chairs and other items people would need for however long it was needed.

By protecting the people of Pawarenga, the blockade was supporting its history and stories. The 1918 influenza epidemic had a devastating effect on isolated rural communities, and especially on Māori communities like Pawarenga. According to Far North REAP staff member Jenna Waipouri, “the support and understanding for what we are doing has increased tenfold since the first day of the blockade.”

Jenna and her REAP colleagues have been involved in the organisation, administration and support for the rāhui, including managing rosters, Zoom meetings, ui, engaging with liaison officers, and generally staying in touch with the community. With limited cellphone coverage in the area, sharing home phone numbers has been a powerful way of staying in contact with the community.
And fully demonstrating the REAP philosophy of lifelong learning, Jenna has been using the time to learn about Matariki through Rangi Matamua’s book Matariki: Star of the Year.

“[It’s] awesome learning when you are on a 4am to 8am shift, and you can see the stars clearly.”