Earthquake Recovery – A Ngai Tahu Perspective

By Adrienne Rewi

Ngai Tahi Kaiwhakahaere Mark Solomon: “We intend to have representatives at every level of planning going forward.”

 Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu is in no hurry to return to its central city base. Just over three months on from the February 22 earthquake, it is happily taking care of business from its temporary premises on the former defence force land at Wigram.  Kaiwhakahaere Mark Solomon says Ngāi Tahu expects to be based at Wigram in its cluster of Portacom offices, for at least two years.

 From there, Te Rūnanga has set up an earthquake committee, which is currently conducting a needs assessment among whānau and planning a second stage response. “Parallel to this, a whole range of activities are being conducted by organizations like He Oranga Pounamu and Māata Waka. These organizations and those that work with them, are doing a terrific job,” says Solomon.

“They have ‘navigators’ out in the community, working to find out what people need and then coordinating the required assistance.’

Maori wardens, sisters Wiki and Pena Hikuwai from Kaeo  (left & centre)and Te Aroha Kora from Whanganui, spent 2 months in Christchurch, door knocking and delivering aid to eastern suburbs.

Solomon says that immediately after the earthquake, despite Te Rūnanga’s own hardship, “we were blessed in the sense that we were able to begin rebuilding our own capacity, and also the capacity of others.” Working in partnership with the Maori Wardens and Christchurch’s wider Maori community, Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu formed the Iwi Recovery Network, with the Maori wardens as the face of the network. The wardens, who came from all over New Zealand, were involved in a major door-knocking exercise in the hard-hit eastern suburbs that sought to provide assistance to all, through food and water distribution, triage services, building, psycho-social support and labouring.

 “We were able to collect a substantial amount of information about what people’s needs were and this information was collated daily and fed into the wider Civil Defence effort,” says Solomon.

“As part of that effort, we also ran the 0800 Kāi Tahu number, which is still operational for whānau requiring assistance. In the first six weeks following the February 22 quake, there were nearly 10,000 contacts made with those in need in our community. Assistance to those people included food, water, blankets, medical help and help filling in forms or making contact with other agencies.”

Christchurch Mayor, Bob Parker (in red) and Mark Solomon encouraging the crowds at the city’s Super Haka event on May 19.

More than 100 Māori wardens ere farewelled and thanked at Te Whatumanawa Maoritanga o Rehua Marae in St Albans on April 15. Of the wardens who participated in the initial recovery phase, 70 had traveled down from the North Island and 30 from around the South Island joined the effort. Several were also dealing with their own damaged homes and many wardens made a daily 47km trip from Glentunnel, to avoid putting pressure on Christchurch’s fragile infrastructure.

 Mark Solomon says Christchurch residents were fortunate to have the wardens checking on their welfare for five weeks.

“The gift of the Māori Wardens to us has been Aroha ki te tangata – love to all people. They delivered food, water and smiles and just knowing they were at the door offering assistance, was a great comfort to many people. What they did in Christchurch was unbelievable. It’s hugely changed attitudes in the city,” he says.

Ngai Tahu whanau taking part in the Super Haka in Christchurch on May 19.

More recently, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu joined forces with national airport transfer company, Super Shuttle, to organize an international Super Haka to send a powerful message of strength and support to the quake-hit community. The haka took place on May 19 and simultaneously ran for two minutes in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin, with crowds performing a Ngāi Tahu haka en masse. Over 3,600 people took part in New Zealand, with others as far away as Ireland, Canada, USA and Mexico also showing their support. The haka events can be viewed at

 Looking ahead to the future, Mark Solomon talks of “a global sustainable city for our grandchildren and their grandchildren.”

“We are encouraging our people to talk with each other, and then to actively seek to pursue Ngāi Tahu’s intergenerational vision. Te Runanga is progressing well with placing those views at the forefront of the current debate about the future of Christchurch. We are in regular contact with the Minister Gerry Brownlee, we expect to be represented on the Government’s community forum and we intend to have representatives at every level of planning going forward.”

The opinions expressed in this blog are the author’s and may not necessarily represent the views of National Services Te Paerangi or Te Papa.