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Resilient Pakeke Heartened by Operation Manaaki

29 Apr 2020

Resilient Pakeke Heartened by Operation Manaaki

When Operation Manaaki was mooted, the aim was to ensure the elder people of Te Tairāwhiti felt safe, included and connected during the COVID-19 pandemic . . . but it provided so much more.

The operation was a joint initiative put in place by Gisborne District Council chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann and the Ministry of Social Development’s regional commissioner Annie Aranui. Council’s cultural manager Pene Walsh led the project with the support of the Civil Defence Emergency Coordination Centre.

In all, 7145 calls were made to the over-65s by 70 people from Council, Fire and Emergency NZ and iSITE. Included in those were Ms Thatcher Swann, Mayor Rehette Stoltz, senior staff and directors, and councillors Debbie Gregory, Larry Foster, Kerry Worsnop, Shannon Dowsing, Meredith Akuhata-Brown, Pat Seymour and Josh Wharehinga. 

“Those being called were so appreciative,” says Ms Walsh. “Our community is so resilient and while many didn’t need any assistance, reassurance was so important to them and knowing they could get help if they needed it.”

Seventy-two percent of those called were ok, with 6.7% requiring some form of assistance. All of those who requested call backs can expect a call within a couple of weeks. Some had already been called back – at their request. In a handful of cases when the phone remained unanswered, the Police had stepped in to physically call by and make sure everything was fine, which it was. Insights gained during the operation will be invaluable for the region’s recovery plan.

“We found one of the biggest things for many was reassurance,” said Ms Walsh. “These are testing times for everyone, and particularly if you are over-65 and alone. Sometimes our calls gave people the courage to check on their neighbour over the fence or reach out for help.”

But there is an added bonus too, with the callers also finding it a hugely rewarding exercise.

Ms Thatcher Swann said she was incredibly proud of her Council team who had quickly stepped in to assist. She also praised Annie Aranui and her team at the Ministry of Social Development along with the other organisations who had supported Council with the operation.

“This is something that embodies all that is good about Tairāwhiti,” said Ms Thatcher Swann, “and taking care of everyone with such aroha. I couldn’t be prouder.”