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Region Asks for Help from the Highest Level

30 Mar 2020

Region Asks for Help from the Highest Level

Talks will be ongoing between local leaders and Government in an effort to have them deploy both personnel and other resources to Tairāwhiti to support regional measures to contain COVID-19.

Mayor Rehette Stoltz, Gisborne District Council chief executive and chair of the coordinating executive group for civil defence Nedine Thatcher Swann and Te Runanganui a Ngāti Porou chair Selwyn Parata – on behalf of Tairāwhiti iwi chairs – sent a letter to the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the weekend.

In it they acknowledged her calm and caring leadership but asked for her to approve the urgent deployment of New Zealand Defence Force personnel and resources to Tairāwhiti to support the region.

Local Police were already at full stretch to curtail non-essential travel and other behaviours within the district.

“We are especially anxious about the risks those pose for the vulnerable whanau and communities across our district,” the letter said.

“Too many of the whanau in Tairāwhiti contend with higher incidences of chronic health conditions and low incomes, and, for our remote communities, much more limited access to health and welfare services.”

Intelligence had indicated rising crime as a direct result of this, and particularly in the area of domestic violence.

“Priorities of Police will naturally change and enforcement of the lockdown will have to be reprioritised.

“Our intention is to have in place all vital controls to keep people at home and save lives. But, our resources are limited, and we need NZDF’s practical assistance to do so. We understand there are rules that need to be followed, led out of the National Emergency Management Agency, and we respect those rules. However, we ask that those agencies trust in our knowledge of our region, and how best to manage our communities through the current state of emergency.

“Prime Minister, you know we are a close-knit community that cares for our whānau, our neighbours and workmates, and that unites to support each other during tough times.”

Yesterday (Sunday), in response to a question from a journalist at the daily COVID-19 briefing, the Prime Minister acknowledged the letter, saying the Minister of Police Stuart Nash had been in touch with Mayor Stoltz to further discuss the concerns.

Mayor Stoltz has also spoken to District Commander Tania Kura and was heartened to be assured by both that the Police “have our backs” and talks will continue.