Thursday, December 9

South Waikato’s ‘resilient’ community sticks together during lockdown

People in South Waikato say their close-knit community helped them overcome the lockdown and will continue to do so in uncertain times.

Akarere Henry, CEO of South Waikato Pacific Island Community Services

Akarere Henry, CEO of South Waikato Pacific Island Community Services.
Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

The district entered alert level 2 on Wednesday along with the rest of the country except Auckland.

Tokoroa became a landmark at one stage when a person with the Delta variant of Covid-19 stopped for gas in town while traveling from Auckland to Wellington.

About 25,000 people live in the South Waikato district: 35 percent Maori, 12 percent Pasififa and 68 percent European.

All groups have been working together on Covid-19 testing and vaccines and have supported those in need during the shutdown.

South Waikato Pacific Island Community Services Executive Director Akarere Henry has been overseeing vaccinations at the local sports and recreation center.

She believed that the community responded well to the confinement.

“Part of our community is still being challenged and pressured and that is not necessarily as a result of the lockdown or Covid. Sometimes it is the life that they have had to deal with before this, so we know that there are still areas of our community. we want to get even more. “

She said that returning to level 2 gave her organization a better opportunity to support families in need.

“One of the things that we are aware of is increasing anxiety levels within our community. When things they take for granted, when things that are normal for them are taken away from them without their having a choice. I know. from our own experiences working with our families that mental health is a key issue. “

Pacific Island Community Services has been working closely with the local iwi, Ngāti Raukawa.

Raukawa Charitable Trust CEO Maria Te Kanawa said lessons were learned from last year’s closure.

“Cohesion and collaboration were much easier this time around, so while the impacts are still worrying and worrisome, they didn’t actually deliver anything that surprised or shocked us.”

Te Kanawa said that the elders were still anxious even at level 2.

“A lot of them didn’t come out of lockdown or leave their homes until they actually reached level 1, so they still have high levels of concern about going out and being in public again, but they would love it, because they love that social element, but it is that health risk that makes them stay home. “

Maria Te Kanawa, General Manager of Raukawa Charitable Trust

Maria Te Kanawa.
Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

She said the Covid-19 whānau impacts and the lockdown lasted well beyond the actual lockdown period.

“For the Maori and the Whānau of the Pacific Islands in particular, any interruption in employment, in the income of the Whānau, in the education of the Rangitahi, it really has lasting effects on the Whānau and it takes us much longer to recover from that. “.

Larry Morrisey has run a menswear store in Tokoroa for 40 years.

He said closings 3 and 4 had been difficult with only a few online sales to keep the business going.

“Doing some crude deals on Facebook every day, I just try to earn a little cash and deliver to the mailboxes every night.”

He said the city’s retailers had worked together to promote business and encourage people to buy local products.

Morrisey said the lack of population in a small town was a handicap.

He said he was adamant about keeping his staff employed during the lockdown.

“We needed staff on board and they are all experienced and we kept them and made sure they were taken care of.”

District councilor and lawyer Arama Ngapo said that in times of need the multicultural community always came together.

“Because we are on State Highway One, we have a lot of traffic going through our communities, so Covid testing is vital and we need to get vaccinated. [rates] as high as possible.

“South Waikato is an extremely resilient community,” he said.

Arama Ngapo, attorney and district councilor

Arama Ngapo.
Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

“We have problems like any other community in New Zealand, but we are sure that we will come out of this and come out stronger because always and together.”

South Waikato Mayor Jenny Shattock said the lockdown had been difficult, but she believed that for the most part her community had managed well.

I was worried about some business in Tokoroa.

“I think sadly this time there might be some casualties. The last time it was closed, I knew that some companies actually put their own personal money into their businesses to keep them going. I don’t think they would have that margin this time.”

She said the businesses got together and ran a local store drive with $ 10,000 in prizes, which kept some stores running and brought the city back to life during the shutdown.

South Waikato Mayor Jenny Shattock

Jenny Shattock, Mayor of South Waikato.
Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Shattock was pleased with the number of locals who got vaccinated and encouraged all those who had not to get vaccinated quickly.

“We as a community have to be more vigilant at times like this and I am pleased that Level 2 people are out and about wearing masks.”

A new community vaccination center opens in downtown Tokoroa on Monday.

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