Rii was brought up by his grandmother and then later, after her death, he lived with his grandfather. As Rii’s grandfather was getting older, thoughts moved to the future – Rii wanted to flat with his uncle Robbie and vice versa but other family members were unsure how this would work out.
The extended family wanted them to live in Stoke to be nearer to the family home, but the two men had other ideas. They wanted to be near shops and services and were keen on moving to Richmond.
CCS Disability Action’s Michelle Van der Hoeven advocated for the pair with various property managers but they were turned down multiple times. Fortunately they met property manager Mel Powell who took a special interest in the two men which has resulted in them moving into a cosy two bedroom unit in Richmond.
“I like the peace and quiet of Richmond. Where we live is only a five minute walk to the supermarket and about a 20 second ride on my trike,” says Robbie.
As for household responsibilities, the men have worked out a system that suits them both. Rii works fulltime for Task Force Green via the Tasman District Council and WINZ, so Robbie takes care of most of the housework and cooking, and Rii does the dishes.
“I cook my father’s Chow mien and my mother’s stir fry. They are my secret recipes,” says Robbie. “I listen to music on my cell phone with Bluetooth while I’m doing the chores. I like Haddaway, Bon Jovi and Metallica.” Robbie is also keen on politics and keeps an ear out for what Winston Peters and Shane Jones are up to in parliament.
To chill out after a hard day working at clearing fence lines on a private farm at Marahau, Rii listens to a contemporary mix of music. “I listen to rap, hip-hop, old school and R&B. I also play Xbox in my room while Robbie watches TV in the lounge,” says Rii.
CCS Disability Action’s Barbara Gould first began supporting Rii seven years ago, initially through a Limited Service Volunteer Program. This led to Rii becoming a valued volunteer at Nature Land, a small Nelson zoo that houses wild life such as capuchin monkeys, meerkats and native birds. Rii was also supported by the CCS Disability Action team to attend adult learning which led to him discovering more about his Māori culture and his Tuwhare Toa iwi.
Rii’s connection with CCS Disability Action led to Robbie receiving much needed support as well. He received assistance with budgeting and help with making major household purchases such as a TV, washing machine, beds and a fridge freezer.
Taking a holistic approach to Robbie’s wellbeing, Barbara put him in touch with a Tai Chi group to help him with relaxation, exercise and increased social interaction. Robbie’s fitness regimen soon extended to attending the gym at Whakatū Marae to help achieve his goal of losing weight and becoming fitter so he could get around on his new electric trike. Both men are also active members of the local Men’s Shed through the support of CCS disability Action’s Brian Robinson and have made wooden swords for the Tai Chi group. Robbie is currently engaged in making a shed for his trike to help protect it from the winter weather.
Both Rii and Robbie are also active and long-standing members of the Whakatu Māori Warden group, working closely with the police to keep Nelson communities safe. They were first warranted and badged during April 2012. Their preparation included Police Training, Critical Incident Management Fire Training and St John First Aid courses. Through their Māori Warden work both men say they have enjoyed access to Nelson events and concerts as well as helping out at some more serious incidents.
Māori Warden, Archdeacon Harvey Ruru praised the men’s peaceful attitude under pressure during a large public protest held at Brook Waimarama Sanctuary late last year.
“Rii and Robbie were on the security gate and provided safety and a calming presence which helped diffuse some of the tension,” says Archdeacon Ruru. “I think all those who’ve supported Uncle Robbie and his nephew Rii are brilliant. Rii and Robbie are fantastic Māori Wardens and always prepared to come on duty.”