"Korowai Manaaki: Disaster Resilience," Profile of Vision Mātauranga scholarship recipient, Hinerangi Eruera Manuera Murphy (Ngāti Awa)

Hinerangi Eruera Manuera Murphy (Ngāti Awa)

E ora ana te mauri o Patutātahi me te awa o Rangitāiki, e manaakitia ana e te iwi, e tiakina ana mo ngā whakatipuranga o muri mai. | To ensure that Rangitāiki River remains part of tomorrow’s plan, the vision demands attention by our people today. – Rangitāiki River Forum

Tēnā koutou. I am a descendant of Ngāti Awa, Te Pahipoto, and I’ve resided in Edgecumbe for 30 years. I grew up in Te Teko on our ancestral whenua, just out of Edgecumbe. Nanny Pareake and Koro Eruera had planted what seemed like an enormous and abundant orchard along the Rangitāiki River, immediately behind their home. Willow trees hung low over the waterway and served as excellent platforms for jumping off and floating away from. Summertime was spent with my siblings and cousins eating fruit and swimming. I was a water rat. At that time, many of us were. I loved the river then and I still do.

On April 6, 2017, at 8.15am, residents along College Road in Edgecumbe were asked to evacuate. After two days of heavy rain the river level was high and there were serious concerns about flooding. Fifteen minutes later, the Rangitāiki stop bank breached. Water quickly traversed the land, entering up to 580 households. The entire township was evacuated.

My husband, his business, our two tamariki, our mokopuna and many of our close friends and their families were directly affected by the flood. Two of our three homes have required rebuilding. Disaster, and the chaos that follows, disrupts lives. How people and their families manage, how their relationships hold up and how they behave collectively as a community, all determine the extent of the aftermath. So it is fitting that my research has focussed on what I term Korowai Manaaki – the Craft of Care.

Several years before my mother died, she gifted me what was to be the one korowai (cloak) she would make. Like our kuia Pareake, who was in her time a master weaver, mum spent many months crafting the garment. She adorned it not only with duck feathers from our hunting friends, but also with patience, thoughtfulness and aroha (love).

I use this korowai as an analogy to describe my research. The korowai encapsulates the wairua, or inner circle, of my key research themes: mana whānau, mana whenua, mana kōrero and mana tautoko. Together these form a coherent, collective research framework.

Through my values-based study, I’m seeking to identify the key understandings that emerge from the practice of manaaki – the craft of care – for displaced whānau, in disaster situations. I want to find out the needs that present for many flood-affected families, who are also often forced to relocate. I am very interested in understanding how climate change impacts on or reshapes the whānau unit.

In terms of my research journey, I hope to continue on to a PhD. I envisage developing creative tools, using communication technologies, social media and virtual reality, to educate communities. I’m also keen to develop an app that will encapsulate my research and be of benefit to whānau affected by disaster. Mauri ora koutou katoa.