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Emily Kay and her son Tamahau operate the community initiative 'The Neighbourhood Project' in Waihi. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Generosity returns to Waihī altruist after rescue

A Waihī woman who spends hours each week giving back to her community is now learning how to receive.
Emily Kay and her nine-year-old son Tamahau have been taken aback by the generosity of people after the pair were almost swept away amid rising floodwaters.
Heading back to Waikino on May 9 after completing food deliveries for their community initiative The Neighborhood Project, Emily and Tamahau were travelling from Waihī along State Highway 2 when they were met with surface flooding.
“We drove through about an hour before and the road was completely dry. We went and delivered all the food and when we came back, the road was like a river,” Emily said.
“I watched other vehicles go through and they were all fine, so I started driving and a school bus came the other way. The weight of it pushed all the water high enough for it to go over the bonnet.”
Emily said the car came to a stop “in the middle of the torrent” and she could feel the tyres starting to lift. Luckily, two Police vehicles appeared on the scene and the officers – alongside a helpful farmer – pushed Emily’s car to higher ground.
“It was fortunate that they found us so quickly,” she said.
The portion of the state highway where trouble had befallen the pair runs adjacent to the Ohinemuri River, and the rainfall of May 8 and 9 had also caused flooding and slips in the Karangahake Gorge.
Emily and Tamahau were on the road because part of their Neighborhood Project initiative sees them picking up excess food from Waihī College and delivering it to community pantries and groups throughout the town.
They’ve also created Covid-19 recovery packs, family seed packs, and hygiene packs – and their benevolence benefits people of all ages.

“We started The Neighbourhood Project six years ago to honour people in community service. My grandmother [Jeannie Griffiths] was the St John lady in Waihī for 27 years… and so we started it for her,” Emily said.
“But during the first Covid-19 lockdown, people started ringing us to ask for help. The worse things got with Covid and with the supermarkets not having food, the more phone calls we were getting.”
But now – with Emily’s beloved Toyota Corolla Spacio needing a new engine, leaving them stranded at home in Waikino – they’ve found themselves watching on as waves of goodwill return to them.
A Givealittle page has been established by two school teachers and has already raised more than $2450.
A local woman has offered to lend them her car when she goes on holiday, while another raised $175 by selling baked goods.
Paeroa Towing Services towed her damaged vehicle for free, while Hickson Motors has donated hours of time and energy trying to revive it.
Several others have also volunteered to chauffeur Emily and Tamahau around so they can continue delivering meals to the vulnerable.
These acts of kindness have made Emily emotional. She said it’s been a “really hard” couple of months with Tamahau being seriously unwell.
“Our community has been so generous and it’s really awkward because I’m not used to receiving,” she said. “What has happened has revealed the generosity of our community. There are people who have given us money who are broke – but they know so many people need the meals.
“It’s horrendous,” she said, “the poverty we’ve seen in our deliveries, and knowing that people are struggling and yet they care so much that they’re giving their last little bit of money so that others can eat – it’s just such a beautiful thing.”
DETAILS: To donate to get Emily and Tamahau back out delivering, visit and search for ‘Emily Kay’.