Regional | Health

Marae-based health hub in the Far North unveiled during Matariki

Kaumātua Barney Popata removes the korowai woven by Kyla Smith to reveal the clinic’s new sign. Photo / Supplied

Emotions ran high over Matariki at Ōturu Marae as a new marae-based health clinic was unveiled.

80 whānau members came together inlate June for Matariki celebrations with a hautapu ceremony and blessing of the clinic.

The clinic is called Te Pūtake Ora o Ōturu and will offer consistent healthcare access for two days a week to the rural and predominantly Māori community. It will be operated by nurse Marlene Sexton, who specialises in respiratory health and tamariki ora.

The clinic is named for the concept of a pūtake, which is the strong foundational root of a tree that provides its life source not just for the present but for future generations.

Local whānau and hapū long dreamed of this and a statement to media called it the first of its kind in the Far North.

This clinic came after the marae’s successful response to Cyclone Gabrielle where the marae committee, Manatū Hauora/Ministry of Health, Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora united to establish a taskforce that provided civil emergency recovery in the Far North.

Te Pūtake Ora o Ōturu is one of two Te Tai Tokerau marae-based clinics that received funding from Te Whatu Ora in late 2023 to target access for Māori, Pasifika, rurally isolated and non-enrolled, or non-engaged whānau.

Hone Popata and his tamariki led the hautapu ceremony, paying homage to each of the nine stars in the Matariki star cluster.

Chairperson of Ōturu Marae, Robert Larkins, said it brings life back to their marae after more than a decade hosting tangihanga, kawe mate, unveilings, and the odd birthday.

He said the marae committee is working on further developments for current and future generations.

They will offer a range of services including:

  • Cardiovascular risk assessments
  • Cholesterol checks
  • Hearing tests
  • Vaccinations/immunisations
  • Driver medicals
  • Access to other GP services, rongoā and whaiora Māori services,
  • Health education and promotion
  • Health screening and monitoring (cervical, bowel, breast and retinal)

Part of Sexton’s role will be to refer whānau through to assorted services available in Te Hiku, but the Ōturu Marae committee is looking forward to branching out the marae’s capacity and capability.

“The clinic is a barrier breaker for whānau and hapū. It can be seen as safe to engage in, by virtue of being aligned with the marae, in partnership with hau kāinga,” local social service kaimahi Aisha McManus said.

“To be Māori and be able to participate in clinical and rongoā spaces that sit side by side is a road to breaking barriers for our people to engage. While this is not a new concept to ngā iwi Māori, it is often overlooked and unsupported,” McManus said.

Te Pūtake Ora o Ōturu is located at Ōturu Marae, 223 Ōturu Road, Kaitāia, and is attended on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am to 3pm.