National | Health

Pou symbolises iwi vision to eradicate meth

Methamphetamine use is on the rise. Police statistics show that in 2019 51% of all drug offences were related to meth. It's for this reason that Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei has erected a pou in an effort to eradicate meth from its community.

It's a united stand by the people of Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei to address meth in itscommunity. The pou represents a cloak of aroha to embrace those walking with addiction but also a security mechanism to eradicate meth from the community.

Joe Pihema, one of the leaders of the project, says, “The pou behind me has been named Te Kahu Tauwhiro. We started this journey 10 years ago knowing that meth had infiltrated our community. So this initiative is about eliminating meth from our community.”

Ngāti Whātua descendant Maraea Tahere-Mokaraka knows all too well what it's like to walk the path of addiction with meth. Years ago she made a conscious decision to give it up for her child.

“Yes, I've had an experience with meth, a long one, it was quite dark. Probably the main things that took me down that path were lots of loss and grief. It felt really lonely but I was also lucky I had a whānau who loved me regardless.”

Professional carver Arekatera Maihi created and donated the symbolic piece. He knows first-hand what meth does to the whānau, hapū and iwi.

“I used to be one of them. Nearly 20 years ago I smoked meth but through traditional carving, with my marae I changed my ways. I'm free of those habits and have dedicated my life to working for my people.”

Pihema says this pou isn't about restricting descendants from coming to the marae.

“This will forever be a sign of love. It's all about coming together and finding a way to overcome this addiction. It's not about blocking or kicking them out. Kicking them out just prolongs the process.”

The iwi hopes those still living with meth will be inspired by the pou and a reason to seek a new path.