A Northland kaiako (teacher) has upended her life to keep working at a Māori immersion school amid the ongoing closure of State Highway 1.
Read this story in te reo Māori and English here. / Pānuitia tēnei i te reo Māori me te reo Pākehā ki konei.
The highway has been closed at Mangamuka Gorge since heavy rain in August caused dozens of slips on the corridor – the second lengthy closure in two years.
A fix has been promised and has not been compromised by Cyclone Gabrielle repairs elsewhere, but a timeline for reopening will not be known until the end of March.
For Hōreke kaiako Maryanne Bedggood, the opening can’t come soon enough.
* $100m Mangamuka Gorge repair still going ahead, despite storm damage elsewhere
* Waka Kotahi spending $14m on closed Northland highway, which won’t fix it
* Slips caused by heavy rain see Northland teacher commute 3.5 hours each day
She used to spend 45 minutes driving to her job at Te Rangi Āniwaniwa in Awanui.
However, the highway closure has turned that into a 1 hour and 45 minute journey on SH10.
Bedggood was travelling the 3.5 hour round trip each day in 2022, but this year decided it would be a better option to board in Kaitāia.
She is able to rent a room from her son, whose two older children have gone to university.
However, Bedggood is unable to take her two dogs with her, which means she has had to leave rottweiler Blaze and American pitbull Luga at her place at Hōreke.
She travels back to them three times a week, plus pays her nephew $60 a week petrol money to feed them while she is away.
It’s left Bedggood at least $360 a week out of pocket – $150 for board, $150 extra for petrol and $60 for dog “babysitting” – on top of her mortgage and usual expenses.
As well as the cost, the time and emotional impact was having a toll, she said.
“I think about it and it certainly impacts my life … I have to get up at 4am just to get here [at school] by 8am and I really do miss my dogs,” she said.
“The roads haven’t improved and there are lots of roadworks.”
But Bedggood said she does not want to leave Te Rangi Āniwaniwa, where she has taught for about seven years.
“I still really enjoy teaching here,” she said.
“It’s wonderful to be back at school and working with our tamariki. There’s a big shortage of te reo Māori teachers and I’ve found a rapport here.
“It’s pretty hard.”
Te Rangi Āniwaniwa kaiwhakahaere (chairperson) Trudy Brown said Bedggood was an “awesome” teacher.
“I know Maryanne and how difficult it’s been, not just for her but all our whānau impacted [by the Mangamuka Gorge closure].”
Brown agreed te reo Māori teachers were very difficult to attract, especially in the Kaitāia area where there was a shortage of affordable housing.
“They may be much easier to find in Auckland but certainly there’s a shortage of Māori-speaking kaiako up here.”
Te Rangi Āniwaniwa, which has 186 students, hopes to look after and hold onto the kaiako it has, as well as encouraging former students to return, she said.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency said slip design and physical work on the gorge is happening at the same time to ensure the “critical” route can be opened as soon as possible.
“Reconnecting Far North communities at this location is our priority. The work we’re doing now will mean slip repair construction can run as safely, smoothly and quickly as possible,” project manager Norman Collier said.
On Thursday, the agency announced emergency repair work had been completed and slip work could now start.
Collier said the first month would be focussed on ensuring the gorge was safe and stable enough to accommodate the large machinery needed to carry out slip repairs.
Waka Kotahi would also investigate how the road could be improved to withstand future weather events and climate change, Collier said.