Wardens work against tide of poverty

The Raglan Māori wardens’ tireless work in the community has been recognised and given a boost with a donation from Raglan Union Church.

Church pastor Doug Stephenson passed over the cheque to the Raglan Māori Warden Charitable Trust on behalf of the church last weekend, saying that the church believed in the work of the wardens and wanted to support that as part of the church’s own community work.

“We are talking about putting our money where our hearts are, and that’s what we’re doing,” Doug says.
“They help anyone who’s in need,” Doug says of the wardens. “I think these people really step up and help.”

Trust chairman John Bishop says the money will go towards the operational costs of the wardens, who also receive funding from sources such as Te Puni Kōkiri, Trust Waikato, WEL Energy, Sky City and the Gallagher Group.

John says about 1000 people come into the wardens’ Bow Street office every month. About a quarter of those are seeking some sort of help, usually because they are short of money.

“It seems to happen all the time. Our people have problems with a lack of money for food, accommodation,” he says. “If we weren’t here, I don’t know what would happen.”
Earlier this month a woman who was staying at the camping ground with her six children came into the wardens’ office, saying she had no food for her family.
“She just drifted in and asked for some food for the kids. She had nothing.”

The wardens phoned the Raglan Foodbank, which is run by Surfside Church, to help. John says even though the food bank was closed that day, they arranged for a large parcel of food to be delivered to the woman.

“They do a good job, the food bank,” John says.
But the problem of not having enough money for basic living expenses seems to be getting worse.

“Why is it happening to our people? Now and again we get Europeans coming in asking for help – but not to the same extent – and we help them too.”
“Our Māori are very shy – whakamā. They don’t want to go up to the [Raglan] Community House to ask for help, they come to us.”
The wardens know of a pregnant woman and her husband who cannot afford accommodation in Raglan and are sleeping in their car, while other people have been found sleeping rough in the bush or around town.

John says rental accommodation is hard to find, especially for those who have previously fallen behind with their rent and then are stuck with a bad credit rating with local rental accommodation agents.

So the wardens also try to find housing, temporary or permanent, for these people, who don’t have a couple of thousand dollars for bond and rent in advance to get into a rental property.

Many of the people that the wardens help come from out of town, from places such as Auckland, Te Kauwhata and Hamilton.
“Maybe they’ve lost all hope from where they come from and they come here to try and pick up the pieces,” John suggests. “If that doesn’t happen, we’ve got to patch it up and pick up the pieces.”

Rachel Benn

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