2nd February 2016 MEDIA STATEMENT
The 85th anniversary of the 1931 Napier earthquake is a time to reflect on New Zealand’s deadliest natural disaster, and pay tribute to the spirit of kindness and bravery which saw Māori and Pākehā come together in acts of mutual support, says Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri.
“As MP for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, I think of the devastation wrought on Māori by this disaster,” says Meka Whaitiri.
“Many Māori farmers who were part subsistence, part commercial growers and relied on credit from stock and station agents and store keepers, were badly affected by the earthquake when credit dried up.
“The Napier Harbour and Ahuriri Lagoon were changed in unimaginable ways and tangata whenua lost a cherished spiritual taonga and source of kaimoana. Six islands of the former Ahuriri Lagoon were then claimed by the Government from Te Whanganui-a-Orotū under the Public Works Act, without compensation.
“Yet, amidst the tragedy, there was great heroism and kindness.
“In Hastings, the Auckland Weekly News reported that Māori were prominent in relief work and immediately formed a working gang clearing the debris, digging out the dead and tending the injured.
“Special provisions for Māori relief were made by citizens’ committees, which drew upon a central relief fund provided by a nationwide appeal and in Napier regular supplies of food and other necessities were immediately arranged for the northern Māori area, which comprised 12 pā from Moteo to Te Hāroto.
“As is so often in our country, in desperate times the peoples of this land proved their resilience and generosity and helped one another through adversity. It is this spirit of togetherness we must draw on if we are to overcome the new catastrophe of our times: child poverty and rising inequality,” says Meka Whaitiri.