This is an article written weekly for the Cook Island newspaper by Derek Fox, prominent New Zealand Maori broadcaster, ex-mayor of Wairoa, editor of Mana Magazine, and who I am proud to call my friend. He and his lovely Cook Island partner Jaewyn, joined a group from Hawkes Bay to journey to Christchurch to offer help at the most basic level, by providing hot cooked food for the unfortunate citizens of Aranui, an eastern suburb of the ‘quake devastated city. I reproduce this with Derek’s permission by way of commentary on ‘man’s humanity to man’, and as a degree of condemnation of local and national authority’s reporting on progress on repairs to, and provision of the basics of life in the injured city.
“Last Saturday I spent the afternoon enjoying one of life’s great pleasures, watching one of my mokopuna playing rugby. I was in the company of my son-in-law and a younger grandson. We were sitting on the bank at a sports ground in east Auckland; it was a great day – a bit breezy –but a great day. It contrasted dramatically with the Saturday afternoon a fortnight before when I was in east Christchurch. East Auckland was laughter and cheering and families watching their sons and loved ones giving their all on the sports field; east Christchurch was a disaster area and will be for months to come. During the game my younger moko talked me into shouting a round of sausages from the sausage sizzle. On the way back to my daughter’s where I knew a nice roast pork dinner would be waiting I dropped into the clubrooms to use the toilet, watching a couple of good super-15 games on television that evening was in the offing too. A fortnight earlier I was cooking the sausage sizzle in east Christchurch, it was cold and wet and the people were hungry. They were hungry for something hot. There wouldn’t be any roast dinner or TV at home because for the previous eleven days they had been without power; going to the toilet was out too unless you wanted to search for the one Porta-loo that was being shared by three streets or you’d dug a longdrop in the back lawn. There was no running water, no shops, no money machines, no petrol stations and worst of all nobody in officialdom who seemed to care. A small group of us ‘Team Tunutunu’ spent a week ‘eastside’on the side of the road cooking for whoever came by. The kai was pretty basic, the jokes bad, but we did it out of a sense of aroha for poor people who were being ignored by authorities and the media, who instead were mesmerised by the collapse of much of the Christchurch CBD and seemed uninterested in the real ‘live’ tragedy unfolding in the city’s poor eastern suburbs. I resented the contrast between the two sides of Christchurch. Each night after cooking for about nine hours on the sideof the road we would leave dark Aranui still without power and sewerage and water and so on,and drive to our accommodation in Addington. On the other side of town the lights were blazing somewhat obscenely in comparison, the shopping malls, bars and restaurants were open and life –apart from the odd road closure around the city centre was proceeding as normal. In the mornings as we drove back to Aranui to cook for another nine hours,the good ladies of Fendalton were out walking, the recreational cyclists doing their thing too. Eastside the locals were waking up in their trashed homes and facing another day in third world conditions. It offended me to hear a gullible media accepting the ‘bullshit’ from the power company saying that electricity had been restored to 99% of the city. The government – national and local – have failed in their duty to the people of east Christchurch; I can’t help wondering how much quicker they might have acted if Ruaumoko (the Maori god of earthquakes and volcanism) had chosen to trash Fendalton and the other rich suburbs instead. In my book they’ve got a hell of a lot of catching up to do to right the wrong they’ve done to the tens of thousands of our citizens in east Christchurch. Team Tunutunu cooked for five days – we got through three and a half thousand sausages and a similar number of meat patties, fifty kilograms of mussels and about twenty or so kilograms of smoked eel. We gave away fruit and lollies and other things that people dropped in to us because they realised that we were trying to do something for the poor abandoned people ‘eastside’. Sadly after five days Tunutunu, our mobile barbecue kitchen had to go back to Hastings and so we headed back to our homes in Wellington, Levin, Waitara and Hawkes Bay. But we felt like we’d done something, not just talked about it. Kia ora tatou.”