Te Ao o te Māori

Jul 7, 2020

A window into the rich lifestyles of contemporary Māori
Photographs and words Nā Phil Tumataroa

When COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill it required some people to strap up their boots and get busy. Waikura McGregor (Waitaha, Māmoe, Kāti Wheke) was one of those people who, protected by a mask and rubber gloves, was out in the community supporting whānau.

Waikura is a Whānau Ora Navigator with Hei Whakapiki Mauri, an Ōtautahi-based organisation which supports Māori, and their whānau, living in the community with disabilities.

As part of the pandemic response her partner, Billy Willis (Ngāti Wairere), was also employed as one of 25 new Manaaki Navigator roles by Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu, and together they have spent a hectic lockdown ensuring whānau are safe in their homes and their immediate needs are met.

“We got busy two weeks prior to lockdown,” says Waikura. “We were watching China and Italy and starting to prepare our own immediate whānau, as well as our whānau members for what was to come.”

On top of the 100 or so regular clients
Hei Whakapiki Mauri supports, Waikura and Billy had daily referrals from Te Pūtahitanga, which included isolated kaumātua, whānau with disabilities and complex cases.

They have had to deal with many problems including homelessness, helping people open bank accounts, obtain identification, housing, providing kai and cleaning products, accessing medications and health issues.

“Fear and anxiety has been really big – whānau mental health has been affected. We’ve been working with a lot of different agencies including the Ministry of Health, the district health board, NZ Housing and Police,” says Waikura.

A local kuia showered three days a week at the swimming pool due to mobility issues preventing her using her home shower.

“Due to lockdown she couldn’t shower and clean herself. We ended up hiring a mobile shower and we’re doing advocacy work to get her what she needs at home. There’s a lot of sad stuff out there in our community – and I’m glad in some ways that COVID has been able to highlight Whānau Ora, to give it the mana it deserves”.