A Tokomaru Bay local has raised over $100,000 (and counting) for his home town’s Cyclone Gabrielle relief after walking all of State Highway 35's 200kms in just one week.
Te Aorere Pēwhairangi started on the 13th of March, finished on the 18th, and has raised over $100,000 in that time ($106,155 at the time of writing).
That money “will be donated to Tokomaru Bay United to be distributed towards the Cyclone relief efforts in Te Tairāwhiti,” according to his Givealittle page, which is still accepting donations.
Throughout the journey, many rangitahi joined him, as well as locals of towns he was passing through, bringing much-needed smiles and inspiration to an area ravaged by the extreme weather.
He took on the journey, dubbed ‘Waewae the 35’, when he found out his hometown was completely cut off.
“I rang my cousin up to see how they were. They’ve been isolated there, they’re their own island and have been since the cyclone,” he told The Project before he started.
“She’s had to start a school in her carport because there are some kids who live in Toko but go to school in Gizzy, Ruatoria, and Tolaga and I thought ‘man these stories need to be told and there’s no road to get in but I can kind of walk around the farms’.
“I thought ‘why not do a hikoi, bring my two bros who are videographers and document the journey, raise a bit of awareness and some pūtea’.”
The damage documented by Te Aorere has been eye-opening, even a month after the Cyclone hit. On day three of his journey, as he was approaching his hometown, he came across the completely destroyed Hikuwai Bridge that leads into Tokomaru.
No bridge means the small town (population of just over 500 people) is disconnected from State Highway 35, and therefore the rest of the country.
Again, just awesome, awesome mahi.