There have been some tough times in Puketitiri recently, but Monique Murphy reckons adversity might just be the making of the isolated Hawke’s Bay community (hapori).
Murphy has been Puketitiri and nearby Pakaututu’s civil defence co-ordinator in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle and, as a registered nurse (nāhi) , their sole medical practitioner throughout the ordeal.
“It sounds strange but it’s actually been an incredibly positive thing for our community, outside of the damage to the farm,” Murphy said.
“There are a lot of people that you don’t very often see. I’ve met four households that I would never have had anything to do with previously. Now we sit down, have a coffee or a drink at the end of the day and a debrief.
“Going forward, I would like to think we would be closer together.”
The community, which serves about 120 people has, like nearby Pātoka and Rissington, been isolated for weeks after the cyclone cut vital road access to the region.
Farms have been extensively damaged by slips, and fencing, culverts and roads have been destroyed.
Electricity was cut for about a fortnight and locals have been relying on food, fuel and supply drops from aircraft or army Unimogs to survive.
But through all the adversity, Murphy said there has been a new sense of camaraderie among locals and the overwhelming support from throughout the country has enhanced that.
After the cyclone farmers took to the roads in their tractors and diggers to ensure slips were cleared and people had access to a community hub set up at the Puketitiri domain, a second home for many.
“I reckon it’s brought out the best in our community. That’s the upside to farmers. They are so resilient and resourceful.
“And all the donations have been very humbling, We’ve had meat from Silver Fern Farms, home baking from Auckland, meals from Tikokino and food parcels from Taupō.
“I can honestly say I’m proud to be a New Zealander because the generosity and compassion that’s been shown from all over has been unbelievable.”
Murphy, whose husband Robbie Schaw manages the Presbyterian Support East Coast-owned Arohiwi Station, said her nursing skills have been well used in recent weeks dealing with minor injuries received by locals as they go about repairing their farms.
Te Whata Ora –Health New Zealand has granted standing orders, which enable her to administer or supply certain medication without a doctor being present.
“That’s been amazing for the community because of the limited access. Being able to receive basic care without having to travel has been a bonus.”
Murphy said the focus is now on improving access to the area so farmers can move about more freely, but also make plans to repair farms and move stock from their properties. A temporary causeway has been installed at Rissington but its use was dependent on river levels.
“Things are slowly starting to happen but it’s going to take a while,” she said.