In the first instance I offer my deepest sympathies to the family of our country’s first COVID-19 related death. Our East Coast thoughts and prayers are with you on the West Coast at this time.

As we begin this first week of national self-isolation I want to acknowledge our essential service workers. From our Civil Defence staff to our grocery workers, from our taxi drivers to our nurses, from our mental health staff to our aged care workers; the work you are all doing are essential to keep our society operating and continuing to be humane. With the fullness of my heart I offer you my thanks.

I want to pay a special tribute to our police and our East Coast State Highway 35 volunteers. You are vital in controlling the movements of people through our region, the containment of any virus and are ensuring our communities stay safe. Thank you to our SH35 whānau for safe guarding our vulnerable east coast communities.

We have no official meetings this week in council, however there is still a lot going on because of COVID-19. Therefore I want to reiterate some messages around the importance of staying home, contacting police, and where to reach out to if you are feeling stressed from the self isolation.

I implore us to please ‘Stay Home’. We have our first case in Te Tairāwhiti, and we’ve just had our nations first COVID-19 related fatality. Like the West Coast, we too are small and isolated. And we are just as much at risk of COVID-19 as our West Coast fellows and the rest of the country are.

COVID-19 has now been demonstrated to be transmitted through the community in New Zealand, meaning, that there are cases where it wasn’t passed on from person to person. A person who had COVID-19 has touched something, a tap, a box, a seat, or a slide and an unrelated person has contracted COVID-19 after touching the same thing afterwards.

Even if a person gets tested and their results are negative, the community are still being put at risk. A negative test yesterday does not mean that someone doesn’t have COVID-19 today.

To protect our community, we all need to stay home as much as possible.

Now, it’s not on us to ensure that people are staying home, that job belongs to the police. We don’t know each other’s individual circumstances, so it’s up to our women and men in blue to investigate, educate and encourage people in our community in the first instance. So, if you see people flaunting the rules by congregating together, or using a closed community facility, then you can call 105, the non-emergency police number to let them know. Or you can notify the police online at

It’s completely normal if you feel like you’re not coping over the isolation period. Your GP is the best place to start, as they know you and your medical history.

However if you feel like you need support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can also call or txt free a trained counsellor on the ‘Need to talk?’ service on 1737. This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

I would like to remind us to be kind. We have to be compassionate, despite the situation we find ourselves in. There are people who are working hard to protect or community and keep it functioning. Our “work” right now is to look after each other, to look after our whānau and to be kind to one another.

As always, proud to serve you Tairawhiti.