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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

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Ngati Awa Volunteer Army - thank you!

Posted at 4:00pm Saturday 22 Apr, 2017 | By Rosalie Liddle Crawford rosalie@thesun.co.nz

Click the image above to watch the video

The Ngati Awa Volunteer Army – NAVA – completed its final organised day of the Edgecumbe clean-up with thank you speeches and lunch hosted at the Ruaihona Marae on Friday. 

Te Runanga o Ngati Awa created the Ngati Awa Volunteer Army in collaboration with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Whakatane District Council, working from their operations centre at the marae.

Volunteer coordinators Wini Hahipene-Geddes and Pim De Monchy from Bay of Plenty Regional Council say they have been overwhelmed by the support from the community.

“In the yellow zone, 137 homes were completed,” says Wini.  “Seven are still required to go back and check on. We’ve also got homes that haven’t been gone through which is why we’re going to continue for a little while longer, making sure every whanau has the opportunity to have help from NAVA.

“In the white zone 196 were completed, bringing it all to a total of 333.  There were 1445 volunteers registered online, and 2500 plus meals have gone out from here to the volunteers.  That’s now 6250 voluntary hours have gone in.”

The coordinators acknowledge the help provided by Envirowaste during the clean-up effort, and Pim says if anyone thinks New Zealand doesn’t have working communities, “this is the evidence that we do,”

“When it matters we definitely come out as a community. I just take my hat off to all of you.  The ‘thank yous’ have been said by everyone else, but New Zealand, Bay of Plenty region, Ngati Awa, Edgecumbe – well done. Thank you to all of you.”

“When we started this we tried to learn a few things from the Rena when 8000 people volunteered and picked up the oil off the beach. Hopefully the success of this effort was in part attributable to some of the learnings from that.”

He says there’s a few people they need to thank in the background too, like the IT guys who put together the database to register and communicate with all the volunteers, and without their support “this could have been quite chaotic”.

Ngati Awa Volunteer Coordinators Wini Hahipene-Geddes and bay of Plenty Regional Council’s Pim De Monchy.


The map of Edgecumbe showing the white, yellow and red zones.

Houses in the red zone. Photo: Elaine Fisher.

On Friday Whakatane District Council Mayor Tony Bonne thanked NAVA for their efforts and presented petrol vouchers to be used for volunteers and a koha to the marae.

Tony also wants to acknowledges the people who were at the epicentre of the Civil Defence emergency response.

“When you have a major operation like this it comes under the Civil Defence Act.  I’d go into the council building top floor and their eyes were hanging out, mine were hanging out and we all just got on and did the work.”

Pim says there were a few principles they tried to apply to the volunteer army. The first being it had to be safe for them, safe for the residents, safe for everybody. The second was it had to be effective, as there was no point getting people to commit time if they couldn’t do something productive. 

The third – it had to be rewarding for the volunteers so that your expectations as well as the expectations of the residents were met, he says.

“And finally we had to use a lot of manakitanga, which is a Maori value about reverence, respect and dignity of people who are in grief and suffering quite a lot with what they’ve lost.  Hopefully what you’ve seen and experienced and contributed to Edgecumbe has had those four principles.”

Pim has received emails and messages from many volunteers, who’ve said they taken away more than they’ve given, and have found the experience an awesome thing to be a part of.

“Give yourself a pat on the back and your neighbour a hug.”

There are no organised clean-ups planned over the weekend, with one event on Monday, April 24 from 10am – 2pm at the Edgecumbe Hall, followed by a final event from 1-5pm on Anzac Day.


Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne.


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The Lovely Mount Maunganui beach. Photo: Denis Player.

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