Te Tai Rāwhiti needs material support – not ‘thoughts and prayers’

The government’s failure to invest in flood protection and emergency relief will be felt for generations to come says Te Pāti Māori spokesperson for Te Tai Rāwhiti, Tākuta Ferris.

“It was only three months ago that councils were calling for the government to help invest in flood protection. Cyclone Gabrielle should have been a wakeup call, but this government has continued to drag its feet, and is now leaving the people of Te Tai Rāwhiti to fend for themselves.

“Te Tai Rāwhiti is still suffering from Cyclone Gabrielle. People are still homeless, whānau are still mourning. This has only made last week’s floods more devasting” said Ferris.

“Central and local government need to accept responsibility for failing to invest in infrastructure and flood protection, and for failing to listen to the community who understand their river and their environment.

“We need to be future proofing our communities for generations to come. It should be the governments utmost priority.

“Aotearoa was rocked by two ‘once per century’ weather events in as many weeks last year. These floods are not a one-off occurrence” said Ferris.

“Our leaders should be out on the ground taking care of our people during times of crisis. Whānau who have lost their homes and belongings need certainty that our government will meet all their needs whether they are insured or not.

“I want to mihi to Te Poho o Rāwiri and other marae who stepped up on behalf of their communities.

“Our marae are always the first to open their doors during times of crisis and provide emergency response centres for the community. Yet we are often the last to receive support when all is said and done” Ferris said.

After lobbying from Te Pāti Māori, the previous government set aside $75 million to relocate marae and homes on whenua Māori impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle. But Ferris says this funding is “too little too late” as this process, which was supposed to begin in October last year, continues to face hurdles.

“More than eight months after the buyout of other homes started, tangata whenua are still having to negotiate the future of their marae and their homes.

“How many more floods will we have dealt with by the time we finally receive that initial support? The people of Te Tai Rāwhiti do not need ‘thoughts and prayers’ – they need material support” Ferris said.