Marae chief executive Takutai Moana Natasha Kemp and New Zealand rugby league star Hilda Peters have been a driving force behind the successful vaccination efforts at Manurewa Marae.

A high-profile south Auckland Māori health provider pins its successful vaccination efforts to its agile, ‘‘locally grown’’ workforce.

Manurewa Marae has delivered more than 59,000 Covid-19 doses in a little over a year at its vaccination centre and through pop-up events in the community.

Marae chief executive Takutai Moana Natasha Kemp is proud of how far they’ve come in such a short time.‘‘

We have a very diverse and versatile workforce.

‘‘A workforce that is predominantly from our community, from south Auckland, who are Māori and Pacific, who are locally grown.’’

Kemp says while Covid-19 has presented many challenges along the way, it had positively shown the strength of a Māori response to the pandemic.

‘‘We’ve been agile, fluid and adaptable... to be able to meet the needs of our community.

‘‘I think this pandemic has highlighted the equity gaps and we’ve managed to find a way to increase Māori health gain in this space.

‘‘It’s also shown us how awe-some our staff are. Without our staff we wouldn’t be able to do the work.

‘‘They’ve pretty much worked seven days a week since the beginning.’’

New Zealand rugby league star Hilda Peters ditched her playing boots almost a year ago to become site lead for the vaccination centre.

She says the other big success has been their outreach work.

‘‘The ‘Street Chats’ team are out there day in and day out, checking in on how whānau are doing, it’s been an incredibly successful approach.’’

Kemp agrees and describes the ‘‘kindness in the air’’ in the community despite families being hard hit by Omicron lately.

‘‘There’s an appreciation for the team turning up in the com-munity... it’s awesome.‘‘

There’s also high crime in our community at the moment... so having the marae team provide some manaakitanga, or a bit of sunshine to their community is something they appreciate. ’’

So where to from here? With the borders now open, Peters is not ruling out returning to the league field but is still very much focused on the task ahead.

‘‘There’s still lots of mahi to be done. We’ve still only tackled one side of it which is Covid.

‘‘At the moment, I’ve put it in my pocket, rugby league... I feel like the need and the passion to help our whānau is bigger for meat the moment.’’

With winter approaching, Manurewa Marae’s vaccination centre is also now offering the free flu vaccine to those eligible. Kemp says uptake has been good so far and they’re appealing for Māori and Pacific people aged55 and over who are eligible for the free flu vaccine, to come along.

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