National | East Coast

Waewae The 35: Pēwhairangi's way of raising awareness and funds for cyclone-stricken regions

He's a funny fella on social media, a presenter on Whakaata Māori and more. But today Te Aorere Pēwhairangi (Ngāti Porou) is trying to achieve a big challenge while raising funds through Waewae the 35.

After a month since communities on the East Coast were hit by Cyclone Gabrielle's devastation, Pēwhairangi is walking the damaged State Highway 35 from Gisborne to Hicks Bay to raise awareness and money to help those in need.

At 7am today from the top of Titirangi in Kaiti, he began his 10 days for the hīkoi and had already reached his first stop of Whāngārā some time after 1pm, making 23 kilometres of the journey. The rest of the journey sees him going through Uawa/Tologa Bay, Tokomaru Bay. Ruatōria, Tikitiki, Te Araroa, and Wharekāhika.

The most important part of the hīkoi, as Pēwhairangi says, is to bring awareness to the severity of the situation with help needed to get the affected East Coast regions back on their feet.

“I guess the motivation behind it was my whānau in Tokomaru Bay. They've been isolated since the cyclone on one end and the Hikuwai Bridge has fallen into the river. And on the other end, the state highway has fallen into Mangahauini and my cousin had to start a school in her carport for the kids who live in Tokomaru but go to school in places like Gisborne, Ruatoria and Uawa.”

Since showing it on social media in the days leading up to today, people have reached out to Pēwhairangi to see what he needs. A particular artist who has fused te ao Māori with the world of Star Wars also wanted to get involved in his own way.

“I reached out to Mr G (Graham Hoete) about how to tautoko our kaupapa, and he painted my red bands (gumboots) and I put up a poll online to see whether I should walk in them.

"My cousin Chad Chambers who is famous for his gum boots on Hōmai Te Pakipaki, reached out and advised against it. So I'm taking his advice and wearing walking shoes," he jokes.

While he has a GiveALittle page for anyone to donate to, he’s encouraging everyone to share the posts across social media to bring more interaction and eyes to the devastation and encourage more support other than financially.

Throughout his haerenga he will also meet with locals to see how they're getting on with rebuilding and more.

Public Interest Journalism