Pā Wananga Dreams Unfold


‘It Takes a Village’ is a Whānau Ora based concept focused on increasing Māori engagement in learning in an authentic Maori environment. Te Pā o Rakaihautu have developed the project which involves the establishment of a Pā Wānanga (A Māori based learning village) in the North-East of Ōtautahi.

Te Pā o Rakaihautu are evolving their whānau vision in response to the need for a more holistic Māori based educational facility. The group started out twenty five years ago, first as a kapahaka group, which from there they were able to develop a total immersion early learning centre ‘Nōku Te Ao’ which has been so successful that they opened another and carried on to open Te Pā o Rākaihautū, a designated character school that caters for the whole whanau from early childhood to year 13. The pā wānanga does not stop there it also offers a range of parent classes and is supporting whanau enterprise on site. Te Pā is developing its own dual language model that will ensure tamariki are proficient and competent in both Māori and English and most importantly that they are immersed in Te Reo early.

This was only part of their vision as there was still the need for a more holistic approach to embrace the learning needs of all of the whānau and to develop an innovative 21st century pā wānanga to meet those needs. Te Pā Wānanga is about creating an environment devoted to the educational success of the whole whānau by providing full wrap around support to the whānau which removes potential barriers that can come between early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary, currently found in traditional education structures.

In their project with Te Putahitanga o Te Waipounamu, Board Chair and Project Manager, Rangimarie Parata Takurua, has been working to secure their permanent site. This has required building a number of collaborative partnerships with other groups and investors and gaining the support of the local Council, papatipu Rūnanga and the Ministry of Education to help make the vision a reality. The biggest challenge says Parata Takurua, has been getting the Ministry of Education on board with their property plans.  

“We have big plans because Te Pā is so much more than a school and we have been in a long battle to get to a permanent site that will allow our vision for a pā wānanga come to fruition”. When we build we will be building a village that incorporates education, social and whanau enterprise, technology, health and community services and facilities. We have grown really quickly and we have a large waiting list so we need to get to a larger site sooner than later.” says Parata Takurua.

Te Pā started out with 75 students in 2015 and since then has rapidly grown and we now have over 280 tamariki which has brought them to full capacity at the current site. Te Pā places a large emphasis on place based learning in an effort to reconnect to whenua and significant places within the takiwā that support the learning for tamariki and whānau in all aspects of Māori success. They also work hard to restore concepts of mahinga kai, maara kai, mirimiri and other health based concepts, sustainable recycling, reducing and reusing of all that come from Papatūānuku.

“We have a goal to increase Māori engagement in learning. It is also important to us that we meet the needs of the haukainga, our Ngā Tahu whānau. We have listened to the whānau so that what we offer is designed to fit their specific learning needs. Clearly something is resonating as we have over 120 Ngāi Tahu students and growing, something I am personally proud of. As an iwi our engagement rates in Māori medium in this area are very low.”

“It is our vision to build and empower our whānau to stand strong in the world, with solid cultural foundations; sharp minds and big hearts just like our ancestor Rakaihautū. He was an explorer, leader and navigator and was the first  to light the fires of occupation in Te Waipounamu, carving out the lakes and rivers on this land with his kō (digging stick). It is our goal to equip our tamariki with the tools they need to confidently carve new worlds for themselves and their whānau.”

“Tamaiti akona I te pā, tū ana ki te ao, tau ana”
A child educated to be strong in their own identity stands confident in the world.

Helen Leahy, Te Putahitanga o Te Waipounamu, Pouarahi says “We could see that Te Pā o Rākaihautū, was a vision with roots as far back as twenty years ago and has involved whānau determination and skill to keep this dream alive, it’s exactly the type of initiative that our commissioning agency is designed to fund. The kaupapa is about doing what it takes to help whanau succeed, not only in education but in life”.

“By creating an environment where learning is exciting, challenging and meaningful, where kaupapa, stories and knowledge are central to the curriculum; and tamariki, matua taua and pōua can learn side by side enables whānau to be cohesive, resilient and nurturing. The concept of whānau cultural, physical and spiritual wellness is nurtured by access to and engagement with the natural environment. And the depth of expertise that Rangimarie was able to bring to the project with her knowledge of Ngāi Tahu pre-settlement investment was impressive. We could see she was a remarkable change maker, who had worked with some very inspirational kaumatua.  With a highly skilled board behind this vision, we’re not at all surprised what this team of visionaries has achieved so far.”

For more information about the initiative TE PĀ O RĀKAIHAUTŪ, 7 McLean Street, Linwood, Christchurch -
contact: Rangimarie Parata Takurua email rangimarie.pt@rakaihautu.com


Te Putahitanga o Te Waipounamu is the Whānau Ora commissioning agency for the South Island.

They work to respond to whānau innovation, to foster and grow inspirational ideas that are whānau-centred, intergenerational,

locally driven, and provide direct impact for whānau. For more information about the Whānau Ora commissioning agency, Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu, visit www.teputahitanga.org