I can recall at University learning in New Zealand history about the old thought that an apparent decay in Maori society was terminal and that the task of Pakeha was to “smooth the pillow of the dying race“.
Thankfully the view was wrong, and thanks in no small part to the vibrancy of the culture and the determination of Maori the indigenous culture of Aotearoa New Zealand is doing better and better.
A slow fusion of the cultures is becoming apparent with more and more Maori words and phrases entering common usage and many forms of art displaying a proud acknowledgement of the country’s indigenous culture. And Maori institutions are becoming more and more important.
One of them is the Marae. At a personal level I have a to do with the Hoani Waititi Marae. The Marae’s work in the areas of youth justice and restorative justice are acclaimed and it provides an important social hub for West Auckland.
A friend of mine, an Irish Catholic lawyer born in New York, who lived in New Zealand for many decades, died recently. At his request the Hoani Waititi Marae trustees let his body lay on the Marae so that friends and acquaintances could pay their respects. If and when I shuffle off this mortal coil I would like to do the same.
A Marae is a very respectful supportive place where people are welcome and much good is achieved.
There are a couple of recent public examples where different Marae have performed extraordinary feats of kindness. The first was at Te Puea Marae in Mangere whose extraordinary efforts to house and look after South Auckland’s homeless showed how hapless the Government response to the crisis was. The outpouring of public support for that Marae really made me proud of my fellow Aucklanders.
The most recent is the effort of Takahanga Marae who in the midst of the crisis caused by the Kaikoura Earthquake has also thrown its doors open to the public.
From Waatea News:
Takahanga Marae in Kaikoura has become a civil defence and relief centre as the community copes with the after-effects of the 7.5 magnitude earthquake under nearby Hanmer Springs early yesterday morning.
The town is cut off from the north and the south with bridges broken and slips blocking roads.
Ngai Tahu kaiwhakahaere Sir Mark Solomon, who represents the Kaikoura runaka, says the marae threw open its doors within an hour of the first quake just after midnight.
Ngai Tahu Runanga staff got to the town yesterday afternoon by helicopter and were able to start assessing what the marae needs.
“It’s become a welfare centre so they’ve had over 500 people so far. We have just got the power back on at the marae but we’ve got gas cooking. There is still no sewerage or water yet butI think they will get on top of that in the next couple of days but the roads will be a different thing,” he says.
Ngaī Tahu has also distributed satellite phones through the area and provided crayfish to the victims. From Maori Television:
Ngaī Tahu Chairman Mark Solomon told Te Kāea today, “We’ve sent satellite phones through and Takahanga Marae is operating as a Civil Defence welfare centre. Our fishing company up there emptied all of its stalls out and I think everyone had a good feed of crayfish.”
More than a thousand earthquake victims including locals and tourist have gone through Takahanga marae, who have provided food and sleeping facilities. However, the big issue for the marae at the moment is water.
“We’ve just finished a briefing session with Civil Defence and hope to take supplies (water) in shortly. They have helicopters and we have some too”
And there are many other examples of human kindness being shown. For instance by Jeff Reardon who has been providing Crayfish and other delicacies for those sleeping out. From One news:
Last night, a local restaurant owner turned up with curry for those sleeping out, and today, a local delicacy was on the menu.
A delivery of fresh Kaikoura crayfish was made by Jeff Reardon, who said it was a simple offering to make life easier for everyone
“After going through Christchurch it’s good to get rid of the people you don’t need here, to ease the burden on us all,” he told 1 NEWS.
“And if you send them away with a bit of a full stomach, they leave with a better memory.
“It’s not hard to be kind.”
The gesture was not lost on those who were in the town to get a taste of Kiwi hospitality.
“I never thought I’d have crayfish for breakfast in this situation,” one visitor said.
In these neo-liberal days where greed is meant to be good it is great to see that in times of crisis acts of real humanity still occur.