Now trust has been built, the door is open for Fire and Emergency and Ngāti Kahungunu iwi, hapū and whānau to work together.

Hawke’s Bay USAR team leader Ken Cooper said this was the resounding sentiment shared by Ngāti Kahungunu CEO Chrissie Hape. It comes as a result of the work Fire and Emergency’s USAR crew has carried out to clean up and support marae to open their critical facilities and the relationship work of our Pou Takawaenga Māori Hori Mana and Kereama Katu following the devastation caused by Cyclone Gabrielle.

PHOTO: Photography by Carena

“Our USAR team have worked closely with Ngāti Kahungunu who had a number of marae, kaumātua housing, papa kāinga and urupā extensively damaged. By establishing a connection with Ngāti Kahungunu we were able to step in working together to provide tangible support that has created a positive enduring legacy.”

Ken said USAR’s work in relation to Ngāti Kahungunu included drones being flown over affected areas, an extensive clean-up of debris and silt damaged items to make housing and a marae available at Waiohiki Marae as a community hub, data being shared between GIS personnel from Fire and Emergency and Ngāti Kahungunu, and arranging to get the Ōmāhu marae generator replaced so it could service the surrounding housing.

“We were also able to arrange for kaumātua and kaikarakia to be flown over their damaged marae and hapori so they could view the extent of the damage and karakia could be performed.”

Ken said the work USAR carried out with Ngāti Kahungunu was possible largely because of the relationship Fire and Emergency’s Local Advisory Committee member for Hawke’s Bay, Monique Heke, had with iwi already and her role as Acting Regional Director for Te Puni Kōkiri Takitimu region

“Monique made it possible for our USAR team to meet with iwi representatives and understand the extent of the cyclone’s impact. This made it simpler for us to determine the issues of highest need and assist Ngāti Kahungunu the best way we could.

“The end result is more than cleaning up – it’s established some clear respect and trust between Fire and Emergency and Ngāti Kahungunu so we can collaboratively work together to ensure this community is resilient and prepared for future events.”

Because of the USAR team’s efforts in supporting Ngāti Kahungunu, 96 USAR personnel from Australia and New Zealand were welcomed onto Ōmāhu marae on 23 February for an evening of storytelling, kai and waiata.

PHOTO: Photography by Carena

“It was an experience that our Australian teams were humbled by, acknowledging the sincerity and authenticity of our hosts.”

PHOTO: Photography by Carena

Ken said Fire and Emergency is not wasting time in building on the strong bond that has been created with iwi with a meeting set to review our response and learn what we can in order to inform others of what can and does work well.

PHOTO: Photography by Carena

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