Chief Executive Officer for the Ngati Pahauwera Development Trust, Robin Hape, says Wairoa is not alone in their desperate need of dental care.

Residents of the remote East Coast town have benefited from a joint initiative between Lumino the Dentists and the Pahauwera Development Trust, receiving dental care for no cost.

“There is a definite need,” he says. “A waiting list of almost 50 patients who missed out this year serves to indicate that there is ongoing demand.”

“A lot of our people in this community can’t afford dental treatment and if we can offer that, alongside other health service providers, then we are doing our part for the community,” he says.

“Rural communities can miss out,” he says. “But you become more resilient…you adapt.”

However having free or low cost dental care is something he’d like to see explored in more communities like Wairoa.

“We’d like to think that the DHBs and other providers will be the people to see the demand and try to explore how they can address that demand.”

Members of the Ngati Pahauwera Development Trust.
Members of the Ngati Pahauwera Development Trust.

Hape’s sentiments are echoed by Chairperson of Ngati Pahauwera Toro Waaka, who suggests a subsidy for solo parents and elderly.

“If you’re on a low income there’s no way you can get that type of care.”

“Wairoa is a very low-income area. In particular, people like solo mothers, solo parents, they neglect their own dental health for their children,” he says.

Waaka was keen to expand the service to Te Aranga Marae in Flaxmere along with other areas of Hastings and Napier, and was putting the call out for sponsors and volunteer dentists.

“Many moving parts”

Hape says many things need to come together in order for this initiative to happen.

“There’s a lot of moving parts in organising something like this…advance planning, accommodation, transport etc.”

The clinical staff gave their time for no cost, accommodation and some meals were provided by the Trust and transport of the mobile clinic was made possible through the iwi’s connection with Mainfreight.

Dentist Isha Woodhams and DA Lucy Vinasova with a patient.
Dentist Isha Woodhams and DA Lucy Vinasova with a patient.

Meanwhile, Hape says he hopes the collaboration continues for years to come.

“As long as there’s a demand, our people are very happy to receive this type of service.”

Our people are grateful naturally because otherwise they wouldn’t have that type of service.

“To receive dental care without the cost, people are appreciative of that.”

This year the team of Lumino Dentists saw over 70 patients and performed over $40,000 worth of care.

Read more about the initiative here.