Hāpai Te Hauora is providing support on the ground at the peaceful demonstration at Ihumātao.

“Many whānau are travelling from around the country to stand in solidarity for Māori sovereignty over our whenua and it’s our responsibility as local public health advocates to manaaki all the kaitiaki at Ihumatāo.” Selah Hart, CEO of Hāpai Te Hauora says. 

Hāpai will have a presence at the site with wai Māori, space for wānanga and activities and supervision for tamariki. This is a collective action in collaboration with Te Ohu Mana Rangatahi, and is a drugs, alcohol and smoke-free space. 

Hart says that the action taken by Hāpai is about recognising the links between land and wellbeing for Māori. “We’re not coming in and telling hapū about who’s right and wrong here. Ultimately we’re dealing with the impacts of colonisation which has led to this divide. Which is sad for all of us because both sides want the same thing - the return of their land - and it’s just the points of compromise which are different."

She continues “As a Māori public health organisation whose vision is ‘Oranga Tangata, Oranga Whenua’ we need to support those whose vision is for the return and protection of whenua.”

Janell Dymus-Kurei, GM Māori Public Health for Hāpai says that the occupation at Ihumātao has demonstrated the connection between land and wellbeing for Māori. “We’re seeing whānau respond to this protest action by coming together in peaceful protest, but we’re also seeing everyday practices of kaitiakitanga  by the masses, discussing our traditional knowledge around māra kai, te reo me ōna tikanga, gathering to wānanga about our stories and our sacred places. You know it’s important public health mahi when you’ve got the police and community in the same place!"

Dymus-Kurei says that anyone who comes to Ihumātao is learning about te ao Māori in a completely unique way “This is a stand for mana motuhake over our whenua, and it has created a space for whakawhanaungatanga and the sharing of matauranga among Māori and non-Māori alike. This is the power of our culture to transform relationships and build communities when the whenua is protected.”