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Kai packs from Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei. (Photos: Charlotte Muru-Lanning / Design: Archi Banal)
Kai packs from Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei. (Photos: Charlotte Muru-Lanning / Design: Archi Banal)

OPINIONKaiFebruary 3, 2023

Eating in a city underwater

Kai packs from Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei. (Photos: Charlotte Muru-Lanning / Design: Archi Banal)
Kai packs from Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei. (Photos: Charlotte Muru-Lanning / Design: Archi Banal)

When your food parcel arrives before the emergency alert, you know something’s not working properly.

This is an excerpt from our weekly food newsletter, The Boil Up.

I’ve spent the last week desperately and at times fruitlessly attempting to drain and then sweep my whānau home of knee-deep water, pull up carpet and lino, wash and dry load after endless load of drenched clothes, salvage precious mementos and dry out photographs, bid farewell to items that can’t be saved. I’m writing this from my parents’ place, which smells fiercely mouldy, and the cleanup still left to do is overwhelming. We’re so lucky that all of us are otherwise safe and well. But just like my family, friends and boyfriend, I’m exhausted.

I remember reading something a while ago about how our experience of climate change will be through apocalyptic clips on our phones until we’re the ones recording those clips ourselves. A haunting thought – but true. There’s nothing like seeing your treasured photographs blurred underwater and your childhood toys bob past you in your former-teenage-bedroom-turned-lagoon to impress the realities of climate change upon you.

Like most things in life, among the chaos, I comprehend situations like this through their relationships with kai.

Perhaps foolishly (it was very hard to know what was going on at the time), out of curiosity, we took a short walk up to Kingsland village on Friday evening during a break in the first deluge. There was a dissonance between the images I’d seen on social media of flooded buses and the reasonably bustling restaurants and bars we walked past. Canton Cafe was teeming with diners despite what looked like every tea towel they owned stacked out the front to keep water from finding its way into the restaurant.

I popped into the Domino’s and asked the worker at the counter if they were busier than usual, to which he replied, “very, it’s a four-and-a-half hour wait”, while combing his hand anxiously over his cap. A man pushed in front of me and demanded to know where his pizza that he “ordered more than two hours ago” was. That people were still getting pizzas delivered and wondering why they took so long in what was fast turning into a state of emergency felt like a pure expression of the information void we experienced, and continue to experience in Auckland.

Canton Cafe in Kingsland on Friday Night. (Image: Charlotte Muru-Lanning)

Much has been said of the staggering absence of communication from those in positions of responsibility throughout this crisis. Despite that, it was marae, iwi, community organisations, charities, schools, the CAB (to which our mayor proposes we cut funding), neighbours, friends and whānau who led the way when it came to responding to people’s needs and communicating vital information. On Saturday morning, Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei sent me a text with information about the floods and assistance and by Sunday morning they had dropped off a huge package of kai – meat, eggs, coffee, coconut cream, corned beef, milo, pasta and so much more. It was Sunday evening before any of us received an alert from Auckland Emergency Management.

On the same day that our mayor spent half an hour on the phone to the NZ Herald complaining about his treatment by the media, we dropped bags of kai to exhausted food bank volunteers who had barely stopped working. They certainly didn’t have half an hour spare to whinge.

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