Understanding how we can better work alongside tangata whenua and in a marae setting is vital for our disaster response teams.

Tepania Kingi, kaumātua from Te Tai Tokerau, lead the team through the noho marae: an overnight stay at the marae. Tepania believes the weekend was an important step in drawing New Zealand Red Cross and Māori closer together.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” says Tepania, “because I see a similarity in the values that Red Cross holds and that Māori have been practicing over the centuries.”

There were around 20 attendees including members of our local Disaster Welfare and Support Team (DWST), Area Council and Branches gathered alongside staff and representatives from the local Civil Defence group. Alison Maioha, recently appointed by our Northland Area Council as Cultural Engagement Officer, organised the weekend.

The weekend began with an informal welcome, and continued with discussions on marae protocol, the history of the area and local response in the event of a disaster.

For some of the group, attending the noho marae was familiar. Vanessa Bethell, New Zealand Red Cross Community Activator for Northland, spent her childhood on the marae.

New Zealand Red Cross team members enter Ngunguru Marae. 

“It was about reconnecting,” Vanessa says. “And there were heaps of cool little stories. I think the people here will be more prepared for a disaster response.”

Ngunguru Marae is a listed Civil Defence Centre, meaning when an emergency strikes Whangarei the marae will open up to the community for support, shelter and information. Red Cross teams in Whangarei will be there to support the response as well, which makes knowing marae protocol invaluable.

“We’re learning more about the community that we live in,” says Elaine, a member of Whangarei Branch. “Because of the sharing in a relaxed way, that I’m sure there was a lot of information that is going to stay with people.”

At the end of the weekend, the group expressed their thanks to Tepania and Ngunguru Marae for their manaakitanga. Dave Pennington, DWST Team Leader for Whangarei, says that this weekend was one important step in what will be a continuing journey.

“It was fantastic, but doing it once is not enough,” Dave acknowledges.

Vanessa agrees: “It’s a way to interact with people in these areas and to build those relationships. We need to work harder to build these relationships.”

Left to right: Alison Maioha, Tepania Kingi, Humanitarian Development Engagement Manager Alina Mancini and Dave Pennington.