'Fight of our lives': East Coast iwi asks summer holidaymakers to stay away

Author
Rotorua Daily Post,
Publish Date
Fri, 19 Nov 2021, 6:08PM
Waiariki MP Rawiri Waititi who is a member of the iwi response unit. (Photo / NZME)
Waiariki MP Rawiri Waititi who is a member of the iwi response unit. (Photo / NZME)

'Fight of our lives': East Coast iwi asks summer holidaymakers to stay away

Author
Rotorua Daily Post,
Publish Date
Fri, 19 Nov 2021, 6:08PM

An East Coast iwi has a message for holidaymakers this summer - stay away.

In a statement today, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui's Covid-19 iwi response unit asked holidaymakers who do not whakapapa to Te Whānau-ā-Apanui to refrain from entering its tribal territories this summer.

The conditions were set as the Government begins to open regional borders and loosen restrictions with summer holidays approaching.

The statement said the conditions aim to "ensure the safety of our people at home but also to ensure we can safely receive our whānau who are coming home for the holidays."

Te Whānau-ā-Apanui's tribal territory is a strip of the East Coast from about Hāwai, east of Ōpōtiki, to Pōtaka near Cape Runaway.

Waiariki MP Rawiri Waititi, a member of the iwi response unit, said they had taonga - pakeke (elderly) they could not afford to lose.

"We spent weeks upon weeks physically manning our borders with very little resource to ensure our people were kept safe. This instance is no different."

The health lead for the unit, Dr Rachel Thomson, said the area's healthcare system was small and could only cater to the people who lived there.

"We just cope with the Christmas rush anyway, Covid on top of this will put huge pressure on our capacity because we don't have the facilities or the system to cater to anyone outside of our own patients who tests positive," she said.

"We also acknowledge how difficult it has been for our whānau away from home living in lockdown and many of you will be excited to get home for the holidays. We want to receive our whānau back into the iwi with open arms.

"That being said, we need to ensure that you are safe when you enter the iwi and that our people at home are safe too."

Thomson encouraged people to get a negative test before returning to the area.

"We are asking our whānau at home to be responsible for ensuring that your whānau coming home are producing negative tests."

Data for the Ōpōtiki District, which includes the iwi rohe, showed as of November 17, 78 per cent of the population of 7289 had had a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 66 per cent were fully vaccinated.

In the iwi statement, Ōpōtiki District councillor Louis Rāpihana said the iwi response unit was also encouraging local businesses to request vaccination certificates and for people to reconsider planned weddings and events.

"We are now in the fight of our lives. Our iwi stood up in solidarity to keep Covid out of our rohe. We didn't bat an eyelid and we made it happen.

"We have done all that we can to protect our iwi and now we are asking you to do your bit and be mindful about our vulnerable whānau living here."

This is not the first time the iwi has asked travellers to avoid the area.

In March last year the iwi announced it would enforce 24-hour a day manned closure of its borders to all outsiders, in an effort to protect its vulnerable community from Covid-19.

At that time no one outside of the about 1000 residents were allowed to enter the territory.

In August last year it urged all non-essential travellers to avoid coming into its territory after growing concerns about increased cases of community transmission of Covid-19 in Auckland.