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06/04/2020 12:00pm

Ngatea gets national exposure for their community spirit during lockdown

One Waikato town has shown that even in a pandemic, they are overflowing with community spirit.

When word got out through the Ngatea Noticeboard Facebook page that six young German freedom campers were stranded in the community during the COVID-19 Level 4 lockdown, the locals showed the tourists just how much they care.

The six tourists (aged between 19-23) found themselves stranded in New Zealand after the borders closed. The group, who were travelling in pairs, met one another at the freedom camping site behind the Hauraki District Council in Ngatea, and following lockdown decided that was the best place to stay until return flights could be arranged.

With funds dwindling, the group followed guidelines and remained ‘at home’ behind the Council building until members of the Ngatea community discovered what had happening and quickly acted.

Julie Stephenson, the Hauraki District Coordinator for Sport Waikato said committee members of the Ngatea Rugby and Sports Club, led by Roz Lesch offered the group the use of their empty club rooms for the remainder of their stay, where they would have use of toilets and kitchen facilities.

Social media spreads news of tourists' plight

But it didn’t stop there, Julie said news quickly spread about the plight of the tourists on the Ngatea Noticeboard Facebook page and soon locals turned up at the clubrooms with food, ‘adopting’ the visitors.

“They are overflowing in dinners and baking. It's very much pay it forward, these could be our kids anywhere in the world. It's been awesome.”

Julie said the actions are typical of the locals of Ngatea and really showed the community’s spirit.

“Warm fuzzies is a cliche, but I am really proud of the community, how they have jumped on board. Even when I was there dropping off some food, there were others there just popping in, checking on them.”

In a time when social media can fuel negativity and fear, Julie said it has been extremely useful in getting the message out. The support generated through the online noticeboard has helped the young people to really get through the situation they find themselves in.

“They are all waiting for repatriation flights back, and as eager as they are to get home, they have been blown away by the generosity of many people.”   

Julie said everyone involved is using common sense around food handling and following the lockdown guidelines in place to ensure the health and safety of the tourists and community.

Freedom Campers 2