July 14, 2020, 3:34 p.m.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and borders began closing, Louisa Opetaia Tipene feared for the safety of her children, but because only one of her children had a New Zealand passport, it wasn't as simple as getting them on the first flight home.
Tūmanako Te'i - 22, Tāne Te'i - 21 and Tiararaina - 16 were born in Japan, raised in Hawaii, and live with their dad in California. An application for exemptions for Tūmanako & Tāne to travel with their sister was denied by the New Zealand government.
"These were Māori kids, they didn't have the passport, they didn't have the citizenship to prove that they're New Zealand citizens but they're Māori. They have, you know, 1000 years of whakapapa that links them to this whenua," said Opetaia Tipene.
This meant Louisa had to travel to the US to bring them home. Louisa had always ensured they had a connection to Aotearoa and knew where they were from. The pandemic has given them an opportunity to reconnect to the whenua and whānau.