Ko te wai te ora ngā mea kātoa – Water is the life giver of all things
Māori have a special relationship with wai, most believing that the breath of life exists within all of our waterways and some special waterways have an essence within them that gives wairua (spirit) and mauri (life force).
Many bodies of water are recognised as being of value to not only those holding rangatiratanga of the water body but also those around that area who interact and rely on it. Over 100 whānau in the small beachside community of Tokomaru Bay on the East Coast on of the North Island rely on the Enihau water spring that comes from beneath Marotiri maunga and along the Mangahauini riverbed.
While the supply is maintained by the community, there are political, legislative, and economic challenges that prevent access and rangatiratanga to the water supply. In 2021 Taumata Arowai began its role and powers as the new independent water service regulator for Aotearoa, replacing the responsibilities of the Ministry of Health, under the Water Services Act 2021. The Three Waters reform provides an opportunity for communities like Tokomaru to have their lived experience at the center of these reforms.
Although the community of Tokomaru Bay are expert at conserving water there are many challenges that the community face in the supply of water for basic tasks such as washing, cleaning, and as a secondary water supply.
"Everybody in Aotearoa should be able to get drinking water from the tap knowing that it is safe. We should also be able to swim or gather mahinga kai in our rivers, lakes, or at the beach without fear of becoming sick. We have an obligation to ensure this for current and future generations.” Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta, said.
The water line is managed by the Enihau Water Board, made up of community members, who have to physically check the line on a daily basis, as well as collect water samples that require testing. Once the water sample is taken from the spring, the sample has to be taken 91kms to Gisborne for testing. Testing of the water is at a cost to the community who are connected to the line and maintained by Enihau Water Board.
The water is collected in the plastic water tank that distributes the water through a plastic water line no bigger than the diameter of an aluminum can. The line stretches almost 20 kilometers along ridges to caveats to whānau, kaumātua flats, and the two Marae: Pakirikiri and Waiparapara. Water from the Enihau is on permanent boil notice, meaning the water must be boiled for consumption.
Flooding to the area at the beginning of the year damaged the water line resulting in the replacement of 10 kilometers of line. These types of activities impact the supply to whānau, who at times are having to pay for water to be brought in via trucks, costs that are challenging for some of our most vulnerable whānau. Especially those who are impacted by chronic illness and disease.
There is a desire and need for the community to have rangatiratanga over their relationship with the wai. Upholding the whakapapa, our genealogical relationship to an intimate interdependency with the wai. The return of our fluency in the communication of the awa, and responsiveness to the needs of our wai.
The means of achieving this vision will require those same political, legislative, economic, and educational tools. Within this vision rests the requirements for us to uphold our mana and ancestral spaces.
There is an opportunity for our local Councils and system players to lean into mātauranga Māori practices that continue to empower and support our community without the financial burden and restricted access to their natural resources.
We know that Iwi and hapu already utilise the skills that were left behind by our tipuna. With the support, they can inform their own uptake, and application of modern technology to maintain our autonomy over our natural resources.
How might this vision be supported by local and central government?
“The Neighbourhood Systems Play Report (NPS) was the best report that I have read at this committee, not a word was wasted,” says councillor Tony Robinson.
The NPS prototype at Cobham School Report was presented by Anna Tolich, the Regional Play Systems Lead for Healthy Families East Cape, Sport Gisborne Tairāwhiti to the last sitting of the Operations Committee at Gisborne District Council, for the outgoing Council Members before the October 2022 elections. One Councillor noted, in recognition of the NPS prototype, that we’d saved the best for last.
Healthy Families East Cape was excited by the opportunity to present and enable the momentum to continue for the prototype and for the tamariki of Cobham School. This is a collective impact in action, that can be scaled across the community of Elgin to include other schools and spaces in the next phase of the project.
Anna has spent twelve months engaging with the tamariki at Cobham School alongside of the Tu Manawa team at Sport Gisborne Tarāwhiti to better understand the aspirations of tamariki in their built environment. Anna’s deep research of the suburb of Elgin included a number of trips on the bus routes to better understand the environmental barriers and the impact of years of urban design decisions Anna also walked with the tamariki of Cobham School around the neighbourhood surrounding Cobham School, including the railway corridor and close-by Blackpool Park.
"It was such a great opportunity to be able to present the neighbourhood play aspirations of the Cobham School tamariki to the Operations Committee. The NPS is such a radical approach to urban design in that it places the tamariki as the co-designers of their own neighbourhood. The presentation to Council allowed us to help elevate the Cobham School tamariki as valued contributors to society, giving them the space to participate, assume agency and take responsibility for the design of their own neighbourhood", says Anna.
What we know is that play, and in particular, outdoor play is associated with healthy tamariki and rangatahi healthy development and physical activity. There are attributes of a neighbourhood-built environment that can influence positive play behaviours, with the NPS prototype seeking to kickstart these environmental changes for the neighbourhoods surrounding Cobham School.
Gisborne District Council signalled extensive support from Council members for the prototype. We are excited to understand what a collaborative approach with Council will look like for the momentum of the kaupapa.
As we move into the next phase of the Neighbourhood Play System prototype which seeks to experiment and test opportunities identified by the tamariki, we are excited to strengthen enduring relationships with mana whenua, and bring to life the insights and opportunities set out by our tamariki.
Anna will present the prototype as part of the Healthy Families NZ: Systems Change in Action Webinar Series 2022 on Wednesday 19 October at 11.00 am.
Pictured: Agnes Walker (Healthy Families East Cape Strategic Leadership Member) and Linda Steel (CEO Te Ao Hou Trust and Healthy Families East Cape Strategic Leadership Co-Chair)
You may have heard her name, or seen her around town in Gisborne or her stomping ground, Ruatoria. You may have heard her on the sidelines at Whakarua Park, or caught her on her daily hikoi of 10,000 steps. That’s 10,000 steps every day. With no fail.
Ask anyone in Tairāwhiti about Agnes Walker, and they will surely tell you that it is a name synonymous with Ngāti Porou, with community, with whānau.
It is these very values, along with her extensive experience in policy and in public health that led Agnes on a life-altering path to Healthy Families East Cape, where she now sits on the Strategic Leadership Rōpū.
For the past three to four years, Agnes has been the friendly and vivacious local champion of not only Healthy Families East Cape and the Healthy Families NZ movement, but everything that these organizations stand for.
“Since being Manager of Healthy Families East Cape, I have been learning from international philanthropic organisations and our own Trust Tairāwhiti about the importance of ensuring the resource distributed in the community is achieving equity and enhancing community wellbeing, alongside creating awesome systems which benefit our whānau, hapū, iwi and community,” says Agnes.
After holding the position of Manager for three years, where Agnes was the driving force behind the team’s commitment to improving equity and health outcomes for Māori, she gracefully untied her shoelaces and hung up her boots, and took on the role of Strategic Leader for Healthy Families East Cape.
Agnes’s reflections on her time with Healthy Families East Cape capture her commitment to ensuring that the work is seeded and growing alongside system partners and communities to create healthier environments for the betterment of our people.
“As Strategic Leaders, we help fuel the movement of health prevention across our region,” says Agnes.
“Healthy Families has an overarching model, Kaupapa, building blocks and principles that are fundamental to health prevention. So being able to provide leadership in this space, and socialize those fundamentals, and what it means to uphold them, with my people, is what excited me and continues to excite me about Healthy Families.”
What resonates with Agnes, is that how we participate is by staying true to the kaupapa. We must hold the space and give time for our people, for Māori to tell their story and share their lived experiences.
“Healthy Families East Cape has been able to do this, in a way that is mana-enhancing, and in a way that props up the areas of our region that have previously not had a great deal of opportunity to do so.” Recalls Agnes.
Agnes now works with Ngāti Porou hāpū, striving to achieve systemic change for her people in forever-changing environments and systems.
Agnes has also taken on the wero of being a candidate, with hopes of entering the Gisborne District Council space as a Councillor on the first ever Māori Ward for Te Tairāwhiti.
“Now is the time,” sits at the heart of Agnes’s kōrero, “to ensure Māori voices are at the decision-making table with the mandate to represent whanau and hapu,”
“It is going to take the work of many sectors and individuals to continue building and reshaping our future for health, wellbeing, equity, and a prosperous Tairāwhiti.”
For Agnes, making the shift to run for Council is right for her, but she acknowledges that this move is not right for everybody.
“There are many opportunities to improve the health and wellbeing of our whānau, hapu, iwi and communities,” says Agnes.
“We have to be brave enough to take the steps necessary, thinking creatively and adapting within a systems approach to break through traditional barriers.”
One of Agnes’ favourite quotes came from Dr Ganesh Nana, Chair of the Productivity Commission, who presented at the Rau Tipu Rau Ora Summit 2020.
“Dr Ganesh said that wellbeing is about three things: Having access to opportunities, the ability to participate, and having a capacity to contribute. If we can focus on providing all three of these not only will we improve the health and wellbeing of our people but we’ll also achieve greater shared prosperity and a sense of belonging.”
“As a wāhine from Whareponga, what I can say is that the fundamentals and principles of Healthy Families, when working in unison and when upheld by those who have the power, help me and others like me to achieve these three things.”
Healthy Families East Cape thanks Agnes for her leadership, and for her drive to achieve profound transformative change across our locality.