Learning & Information | Rukuhia Te Puna Mātauranga

Jamie-Leigh, Puke and Manaakiao Timoti – Ruatāhuna


“It was a last-minute thing to come to Ruatāhuna… we’re blessed to have two homes and work that spreads us between two regions.

Once given the warning that we would be moving to Level 4 we had to make a quick decision as to where our whānau would be best placed. Stay in the suburbs, enclosed spaces, with the local parks closed? Or head to the hills, the safety of our lands and the safety of our people, with wide open spaces and freedom?

It was a bit of a no-brainer really, but my irrational anxiety was the conflict behind leaving the decision so late.

I was anxious and worried about what the next four weeks were going to look like, feel like, and be like with having to balance work, school and keeping everyone happy, it was just uneasy.

We frantically packed to the hilt and hit the road, arriving in the valley at 11:45pm.

Once we arrived home it was a relief although the first two weeks were a bit hard as we re-adjusted to our space reorganising half the house to make it functional (for 24/7 living), so we could have a quiet working space to attend the many Zuis (Zoom Hui). Eventually, we found our rhythm and pressed together, and I think Lockdown made us more resilient.

Puke had just started a new project so he was given clearance to be out in the field for those initial weeks as an essential worker, I was balancing my working hours but making sure Manaakiao was settled, feeling guilty because the kids were having to do a lot of looking after themselves and him (Manaakiao), feeling guilty that I wasn’t engaging with much of their school work.

We had to find respite things for Manaakiao to do. He loves animals and has a high social appetite. During Lockdown he would go outside and have the neighbour’s dog, our dog, the neighbour’s chickens, and the horses all rally around him.

Before we ever knew about his William’s Syndrome, he had this innate nature and we’d have wild horses coming out of the bush, one time he had wild horses come up to him and they began sniffing him. Being from the city, and with no horse experience I thought he was going to get kicked.

Puke is a horseman and says the horses know Manaakiao is different. They don’t see him as a threat.

I feel safe here, I know that we are in a community that is very loving and cares about each other. I’m quite a social person, so I was quite eager to see people I hadn’t seen in a long time since we’d been spending the majority of our time in the Waikato. But I knew coming here we would be looked after by the environment and by the community itself. I do feel close to the land here.”

Ka mate kāinga tahi, ka ora kāinga rua

A first home dies, a second home lives

(The whakataukī speaks of resilience and improvisation, on the one hand. It is commonly applied to any situation in which a ‘plan B’ is required, or when one system gives way to another.)

Puke Timoti /Father


“Returning home didn’t just protect us from Covid-19, but returning to nature gave us a space to reconnect – with each other and with our natural environment.

The rush was removed from life, we were able to get back to basics. Collecting local kai, tramping in our backyard bush, cooking together, riding our horses, listening out and roaring for deer from the roadside… the absence of travellers caused the wildlife to come right out to the road.

This time was a reminder to us of what is important, whānau, relationships and connection.

Lockdown may have been stressful with many unknowns, but we became closer as a family. In Lockdown I was able to pass down so much to my children, stories of their heritage and their connection to the land. That was something important to me.”

E hoki ki te kāinga o te whakaiti

Go back to the home of humility

  • 17 September 2020
  • This article appeared in Life in a Pandemic, a book about disabled and autistic people in Covid-19 Lockdown, 2020. © Life Unlimited Charitable Trust (now known as Your Way | Kia Roha).

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