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Report Finds That Whānau Ora Contributed To Recovery Of Whānau Initiatives Impacted By COVID-19

A new report demonstrates that Whānau Ora investment in flaxroots whānau infrastructure provides an important foundation for recovery.

Evaluation of Wave Nine Initiatives focuses on the ninth wave of Whānau Ora commissioning from Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu, comprising 24 whānau-led initiatives which received funding in July 2019. These initiatives were 10 months into their year-long funding period when COVID-19 hit, and data collected between March and April 2020 revealed that the pandemic had a significant impact on planned activities.

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu Pouārahi Helen Leahy says that the evaluation demonstrated that Whānau Ora investment enabled the initiatives to respond quickly and effectively, allowing them to ride out the lockdown restrictions. Some developed a plan to restart activities as soon as restrictions were lifted, while others moved quickly to innovate and diversify in a networked capability approach that targeted the relationship between platforms, people and places.

An example of this was Tū Mokomoko, an initiative with a particular focus on Matariki in the rohe of Ōraka Aparima. They developed a stronger social media presence, providing another platform to wānanga knowledge about rongoā, local history and tikanga Māori. Native Arts Aotearoa in Motueka had to completely reassess their business plan in light of lockdown restrictions and refreshed their approach with a series of Zoom wānanga teaching the fundamentals of whakairo (carving).

“It was exciting to see many of the entities reporting that their increased online presence had in turn increased their visibility and improved their connection with whānau,” says Ms Leahy. “The networked capability approach also enabled distribution of information which was vital to a pandemic response.”

The report also demonstrates the flexibility of Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu in reworking anticipated outputs and outcomes to suit the new environment, while still enabling initiatives to meet their contractual expectations.

In some cases, initiatives were able to provide support directly to whānau impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. At Ōnuku Rūnanga, initiatives Mātauranga Te Waihora and Akaroa Mahika Kai were able to address the impact of social distancing for their kaumātua and others in the wider community, as well as distributing food parcels, hygiene packs and other essential items.

“The evaluation shows the ability of whānau entities to mobilise support within communities during times of crisis,” says Ms Leahy. “It is our hope that this report leads to wider recognition of the value of a community system approach.”

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