- When the pandemic hit New Zealand, the Māori community banded together.
- Bella Takiari-Brame FCA helped arrange mobile vaccination units, isolation solutions and food deliveries, with a focus on the elderly population.
- Takiari-Brame credits her compassion during the pandemic to motherhood, and says she wants to leave the right legacy for her children.
As told to Abbie Bryant
Bella Takiari-Brame FCA is a professional director and chair of the Establishment Board for the post settlement governance entity, Te Nehenehenui Trust (Te Nehenehenui). She led her Māori community (iwi) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘‘My CA journey was all about commercial challenges and financial reporting challenges, which is still very relevant to the work I do with my iwi. I am involved with our commercial entities – mainly commercial fishing – and the process of consolidating assets. We are in a time of great change due to redress received for past grievances. We will be transitioning from a NZ$40 million entity to a NZ$220 million entity in the span of 18 months.
Picture: Bella Takiari-Brame FCA. Image credit: Ruth Gilmour.
I am currently in my third term as trustee for my iwi. It’s a governance position. I started in 2015 and was interim CEO for a year in 2019 and 2020. It was only meant to be three months, but COVID hit.
The Māori community was hit really hard with the Spanish flu after World War I and those stories have been passed down. The memories of mass graves have not been forgotten. When COVID struck, we were reminded of how vulnerable we are as a people.
We didn’t wait for the government. We set up our own responses and cancelled large hui (social gatherings) against advice. Mobile flu vaccination units, with District Health Board support, were set up and we also focused on our elderly because it was quite clear they were the most vulnerable.
All the tribes throughout New Zealand coordinated and worked together. We have the networks and the ability to reach those who are most vulnerable and remote. We arranged food deliveries and made sure they were cared for. When you live in poverty, there are a lot of people living in the same house. So we tried to find solutions for people to isolate themselves.
As a people we decided nobody was going to die under our remit. We responded to COVID with our cultural protocols and values in mind: we believe in looking after everyone, not just our own. We worked very closely with our local councils and mayors in order to do that.
The people on the ground in my tribal area are amazing: they are involved with education, testing and vaccination. I think you get to a point – for me it was when I became a mother – when you start to question the impact on people if a leader isn’t emulating the right values. You want to create a legacy that is the right one for your children.”
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