Rural communities well-placed to cope, chief says

David Ellison
David Ellison
As the world goes into shutdown and New Zealand tries to contain Covid-19, rural folk have a huge advantage over their urban counterparts, Huirapa Puketeraki upoko (chief) David Ellison says.

Now in his 80s, Mr Ellison grew up in the small coastal town of Karitane, in East Otago.

He can recall the summer of 1948-49 when he was holidaying with family in Patearoa and the polio outbreak catapulted the nation into lockdown, with a five mile travel restriction.

‘‘Everything in New Zealand shut down, and because of the five mile travel radius, my cousin Hawea and I were isolated on the Duffy farm in Patearoa.

‘‘It’s considered remote now, but it was even more so back then. There was no television or phones. The nearest shop was in Ranfurly but we couldn’t go there, so we spent the time shooting and trapping rabbits and hares.

‘‘We used the carcasses to bait grouper hooks to catch the giant eels living in the water races on the farm. This went on for weeks and weeks. I can’t remember exactly how long, but we were pretty homesick by the time the travel restrictions were lifted,’’ he said.

When Mr Ellison finally returned to Karitane, schools were still closed, ‘‘so back to the beach we went, floundering, eeling, paua harvesting. It was a good, simple, healthy existence for a boy of my age and stage’’.

While Covid-19 brought a time of unease and disruption, it also opened up opportunities for those who lead busy lives.

‘‘A positive note is that we get to entertain ourselves and our family within the confines of our immediate communities. Simple, quality time at a slower pace with the ones we love,’’ he said.

-By Alice Scott

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