2 May 2019

Taupō crash: Thousands expected at tangi for seven family members

6:29 am on 2 May 2019

Thousands of people are expected at the tangi for the seven members of the Poutawa whānau who died in a crash north of Taupō at the weekend.

Sherilyn Poutawa speaks about her family who were killed in a north Taupō crash and her grandson who is recovering in hospital.

Sherilyn Poutawa speaks about her family who were killed in a north Taupō crash and her grandson who is recovering in hospital. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

The dead include the parents and five children, aged between seven and 13, from one family and the the sole occupant of another vehicle.

The sole survivor, a nine-year-old boy, is in a stable condition at Waikato Hospital. Another son, 12-year old Legacy, was not with the family at the time.

The tūpāpaku, or bodies, were due to arrive at Moteo Marae near Napier overnight, escorted by relatives.

The Poutawa whānau grew up around Moteo Marae, and whakapapa to Ngāti Kahungunu.

Ngāti Kahungunu chair Ngahiwi Tomoana said they have offered all the assistance they could.

That included sending marquees and food to Moteo Marae and providing vehicles for whānau to go to Hamilton to be with their loved ones. They also helped organise for a police liaison officer and a board member to go north as well, so they could see what more they could do, Mr Tomoana said.

"We know the whānau well, they're deeply entrenched in Ngāti Kahungunu.

"It's just unprecedented, a real shock-horror, a lot of numbness around and so we're just making sure that the tikanga, and kawa, and customs and our manaaki is extended in all sectors of the community.

"Everyone's a bit numb, unsure of what to do, what sort of karakia to use, what sort of display of emotions that might just reverberate around the rohe, but I don't think it'll hit home til they arrive home.

"It's a whole family wiped out," he said.

"This is going to have echoes [of grief] right throughout the year, and right throughout the community because of the huge nature of this tragedy.

"No iwi has seen anything of this magnitude before, especially involving one whānau, so we'll just take it one step at a time, shoulder-to-shoulder with our hapū and with the whānau, and with all the supporters that will come," he said.

Every marae in the iwi was gearing itself up to support the wider whānau, and the influx of visitors expected from throughout the country, he said.

"There'll be hundreds every day, so I'd say by the end it would've been one, two, three thousand over the next few days at least," he said.

Wider whānau were very busy and helpful, "just to try and block some of the trauma of this accident".

The tangi would offer people a way to grieve in a safe and traditional way, he said.

"That cleaning of the soul helps us grieve, it helps with grief and anger management, even the ordeal of it all.

"We contain that within three, four days and then we ... support the whānau well beyond that."

He said he expected a puna roimata - a deep well of tears - to flow.

"[It] needs to be released on occasions like this so that the hurt isn't carried on week after week, month after month, and we're allowed to express ourselves with tears of grief and tears of love. There'll be a lot of that flowing."

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