Marae prepares for ChCh tourists
By Cathy Romeyn
The 70 visitors were greeted with beds, food, impromptu entertainment and aroha.
The marae is geared up for 200 visitors and donations of food, blankets and toiletries have been pouring in.
From a single table of clothing, there is now a hallway laden with toiletries, clean shirts, shorts, jeans and jackets.
Underwear has been the most popular item, followed by toothbrushes.
Yesterday, the call went out for mobile phone chargers of all varieties so that arrivals can charge their cellphones and make calls to loved ones.
Internet access was expected to be installed last night.
“People were desperate to be able to Skype their loved ones and to leave messages on Facebook,” said Nicky Karu, Wellington City Council treaty relations manager.
The initiative at the marae is a combined effort between WCC and the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust.
Most of the arrivals yesterday were English speaking but some had English as a second language.
An email went out today asking for volunteer translators and the response has been excellent with language schools as well as individuals responding.
A local resident, Craig, was waiting at the marae for the expected visitors last night.
“I have been reading about the quake over the past two days and felt compelled to help. I can’t offer accommodation or money, but I can donate me,” he said.
“I am here for as long as they need me.”
The showers and toilet facilities at the marae have been certified compliant by the health department.
A marquee has been erected on the marae grounds to cater for large amounts of donated goods.
Donated items were being left at the Toi Poneke Welfare Centre, where Christchurch tourists were first taken from Wellington Airport, but the sheer volume of goods had been causing problems.
The flights that arrived early yesterday were during the air-noise curfew period that normally applies to Wellington Airport.
But Wellington civil defence spokesman Mike Mendonca said the national civil defence emergency following the quake took precedence over the curfew.
Meanwhile, Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples met yesterday at Rehua Marae with Ngai Tahu, Whanau Ora providers, taurahere groups, the Maori Wardens and other Maori groups to discuss a co-ordinated response to Maori and other people who need help following the earthquake.