Big ups for Canterbury marae

big-upsThe Canterbury District Health Board has praised Canterbury marae for their leadership role following the earthquakes.

“Marae played a vital, central role in the response and recovery after the earthquakes,” Emma Rawson of the Canterbury District Health Board told the Public Health Association’s annual conference. “Māori values like manaakitanga have been key – marae were opened up to the whole community, not just Māori.”

A study of six communities affected by the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch earthquakes has found that marae played – and continue to play – a leadership role in the rebuild and recovery of the city.

The study – ‘Building community resilience: Learning from the Canterbury earthquakes’ – involved researchers from the Canterbury District Health Board, Mental Health Foundation, Otago University, and the public health research firm, Quigley and Watts Ltd. It was jointly funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) and Canterbury Medical Research Foundation, as one of five projects looking into the health implications of the earthquakes.

Māori communities were among the hardest-hit by the earthquakes, as many Māori lived in the worst-affected areas. Māori research participants said the effects on marae workers and volunteers of dealing with people in severe hardship were significant. Many leaders and workers were themselves dealing with difficult personal circumstances after the earthquakes.

“Rehua Marae became a central hub for the Māori response, with many services based there including fire, police, ambulance, social workers and Māori support workers. It hosted high numbers of visitors for at least six weeks after the February earthquake. Ngāi Tahu also organised professional Māori mental health support available at the marae.

“Marae leadership was important. So, the rapid response at Rehua Marae was facilitated by leaders with the autonomy to act quickly. A clear chain of command was in place, based on whakapapa, seniority and mana. Marae became emergency response centres,” said Emma Rawson.

The Ngāi Tahu earthquake response also included the Māori Recovery Network – a collaboration between iwi and Māori organisations, locally and nationwide, to support the people of Christchurch. The network emerged from Rehua Marae. A Ngāi Tahu Earthquake Recovery Working Group (Te Awheawhe Rū Whenua) was also established to plan the immediate and longer-term response and recovery for the iwi.