Dramatic siege brought out the best in Porirua
Acrisis will usually bring out the best in a community, but each community will react in its own way. Porirua’s response to the siege in Kokiri Cres was unique.
The first reaction to the shooting, of course, was shock and horror. A policeman leaped out of a second-storey window and a gunman was seen in the street; shots came from another house, and a policeman carried a dog dripping blood.
As always with such events, the local community could not believe what was happening in its ‘‘quiet neighbourhood’’.
The evacuation came next, and here too there was terror and haste. Helen Feo and her family in nearby Warspite Ave were told to leave and, ‘‘We just grabbed the babies and left’’, she said.
Then the instinct to help kicked in, and the strength of Porirua’s community showed itself. The help centred on the local marae and the work of Maori wardens, an institution that has recently been criticised because it still has the right to ban ‘‘troublesome Maori’’ from pubs.
The crisis showed the value of the wardens. Warden Aunty Heni and police iwi liaison officer Mike Tahere searched the streets that night for Kokiri Cres people, and found them in cars, bus shelters and under trees.
Aunty Heni banged on car windows and said, ‘‘Get up, come with me, I’m taking you home’’. She meant home to Horouta Marae. The marae was a haven.
There was not just food – 80 people dined on mashed potato, mince and pumpkin – but beds and comfort. As Aunty Heni said, the community responded ‘‘as only the Porirua community would’’, with people bringing food, toilet paper, and even a new television’’.
Porirua showed once again what a wonderful institution the marae is, and what a splendid service the wardens provide.
The wardens, as Ranginui Walker once said, ‘‘are the modern outcome of the Maori desire, since the Treaty of Waitangi signing in 1840, for their own forms of social control’’.
The stereotype of Porirua is of a poor and troubled community, although this stereotype has little to do with an increasingly confident and comfortable city.
But the stereotype was never fair; the reality of Porirua’s manaakitanga and its powerful community strength was on public display at the weekend. Nobody could fail to be moved by it.