A large study of six communities affected by the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch earthquakes has found that marae have played - and continue to play - a leadership role in the rebuild and recovery of the city.
The ‘Building community resilience: Learning from the Canterbury earthquakes’ study involved researchers from the Canterbury District Health Board, Mental Health Foundation, Otago University, and public health research firm, Quigley and Watts Ltd. It was jointly funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) and Canterbury Medical Research Foundation as one of five projects looking into the health implications of the earthquakes.
"Marae played a vital, central role in the response and recovery after the earthquakes. Maori values like manaakitanga have been key - marae were opened up to the whole community, not just Maori," Emma Rawson from the Canterbury District Health Board told the Public Health Association’s annual conference in New Plymouth today.
Maori communities were among the hardest-hit by the earthquakes, as many lived in the worst-affected areas. Maori research articipants said the effects on marae workers and volunteers of dealing with people in severe hardship was challenging. Many leaders and workers were themselves dealing with difficult personal circumstances after the earthquakes.
"Rehua Marae became a central hub for the Maori response, with many services based there including fire, police, ambulance, social workers and Maori support workers. It hosted high numbers of visitors for at least six weeks after the February earthquake. Ngai Tahu also organised professional Maori mental health support available at the marae.
"Marae leadership was important. So, the rapid response at Rehua Marae was facilitated by leaders with the autonomy to act quickly. A clear chain of command was in place, based on whakapapa, seniority and mana. Marae became emergency response centres."
The Ngai Tahu earthquake response also included the Maori Recovery Network - a collaboration between iwi and Maori organisations, locally and nationwide, to support the people of Christchurch. The network emerged from Rehua Marae. A Ngai Tahu Earthquake Recovery Working Group (Te Awheawhe Ru Whenua) was also established to plan the iwi's immediate and longer-term response and recovery. There is also a fund to assist affected whanau.
"The high needs meant intense workloads and demands on marae workers and volunteers. Some whanau worked shifts of 24 or more hours cooking, feeding and hosting affected people. Some reported problems with burnout and stress. Participants expressed concern about the mental health implications of the earthquakes over time, and the cumulative effects of stress and trauma," Emma Rawson said.