There are no signposts in the sea

- Vita Sackville-West

It was good for the soul this week to sit on the shores of Kaikoura, and read the horizon.   

I remember some years ago in 2001, Hon Dame Tariana Turia had established the Māori Adult Literacy reference group to describe the lifelong journey of ‘reading’ and shaping the Māori world.  One of the contributors to their work, Te Kawai Ora, was Professor Wally Penetito who described “bi-literacy”:

Being literate in Māori should also include having the capacity to ‘read’ the geography of the land, i.e. to be able to name the main land features of one’s environment (the mountains, rivers, lakes, creeks, bluffs, valleys etc.), being able to recite one’s tribal/hapū boundaries and be able to point them out on a map if not in actuality as well as the key features of adjacent tribal/hapū boundaries and being able to ‘read’ Māori symbols such as carvings, tukutuku, kōwhaiwhai and their context within the wharenui (poupou, heke etc.) and the marae (ātea, ārongo etc.).

So many of our initiatives in Te Waipounamu are about the art of biliteracy: cultural mapping – reading and understanding the natural world around us.

And so it was midway through this week that we made a quick trip to the Coast.  Our Whānau Ora Navigator Extraordinaire, Rauhina Coakley, took us around to survey some of the damage done by Cyclone Fefi and Cyclone Gita.   Across the road from Arahura Pa, a landscape view that once obscured the sea has now been revealed as 28 trees at once were pulled out of the ground.


Other scenes were profoundly shocking as you witnessed the force and strength of the cyclones having torn its way through homes and buildings.

While in Hokitika, we met with Claire Brown, West Coast civil defence manager.   Claire is Group Welfare Officer for the regiona from Jacksons Bay to Karamea.

Claire talked to us about the new normal, that we must adjust to the expectation that adverse weather events will continue to occur.    In this light, we must be prepared – to stick a note on the fridge listing the items that we need to pack into our grab bag in the event of an emergency.   Placing a pair of shoes and a torch and batteries by the side of the bed. As my old Girls Guides training would tell me, always “be prepared”.


If anyone knows about being prepared to expect the worse it would be whānau living alongside the Kaikoura Coast.   This week we had our own turn at helping with the traffic flow at Peketa when we caught up with Riria Allen from Te Tai o Marokura.   You would be surprised how heavy and unwieldy those ‘go’ and ‘stop’ signs are!

Te Tai o Marokura has been leading an initiative called,  “Whakamana Ngāti Kurī”. The aim is to address generations of behaviours which have created barriers in achieving ultimate wellbeing. The concept was to highlight to rangatahi the struggles that our kaumātua had and how they grew stronger because of these struggles.

Whakamana Ngāti Kurī is based on the approach that behaviour is learned and can also be unlearned and that tackling the problem of bullying, must commence in the home and be reinforced within the wider whānau and rūnanga within a wider context of whānau wellbeing.

Whakamana Ngāti Kurī covers:

• Te ao Māori taking responsibility and action to create positive change

• Doing things that make whānau strong – te mana kaha o te whānau!

• Tikanga and traditional values – drawing on rich and powerful traditions

• Kahukura – the people that inspire change in the whānau and communities


Riria Allen and her sisters and cousins are the ultimate exemplars of the 2018 International Women’s Day theme which draws attention to the rights and activism of rural women, who make up over a quarter of the world population.

International Women’s Day was held on Thursday 8 March.   The theme this year – rural and urban activists – transforming women’s lives – is especially relevant because of the impact of key campaigns such as #MeToo and #TimesUp on issues relating to sexual harassment, violence and abuse.

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While we’re on the topic of activists, you don’t have to go far into the Mataura and District Marae Committee to find some strong, bold women making a difference.

Anna Gorham, a well known local weaver has been working with the marae committee to tutor the tukutuku mahi. As part of their initiative with Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu, a group of people travelled to Haast to gather kiekie and prepare the kiekie under Anna’s instruction at the marae in Mataura. There were approximately 500 bundles of kiekie prepared

Many people who had never harvested, prepared or worked with kiekie had an opportunity to do this.   Traditional knowledge of this taonga has been transmitted to the weavers who participated and at the same time preparation began on the tukutuku panels..

Under the supervision of Tohunga Whakairo, James Rickard, colours and designs were set and an enthusiastic group of tamariki from Te Wharekura o Arowhenua, supported by their Tumuaki, Kaiako and mātua are making steady progress. Most of the rangatahi have Mataura connections and it is a positive renewal of the long-standing relationship between Te Wharekura o Arowhenua and Mataura.

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Murihiku meets the Minister for Whānau Ora

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Our contract advisor, Vania Pirini, was one of many who joined the very successful visit of Minister Henare to Murihiku this week.   Vania had also been able to support the visit of the Minister to Arowhenua and Timaru earlier in the week, so it was wonderful to hear her reports and feedback of issues the Minister had prioritised.

In Invercargill a formal powhiri by Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Arowhenua demonstrated the passion and pride of these tamariki mokopuna for their kura.  There is nothing that shows the heart of the people quite as much as our babies in full force!

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It was a true tribute to the entrepreneurial vigour of Koha Kai founder, Janice Lee, that her time with the Minister made it to the front page of the Southland Times.   Janice certainly put Koha Kai on the map, sharing the stories of their journey, while showing the Minister the flourishing maara, including their newest projejcts – regenerated watercress and worm farms.

Māori Electoral Option

Now that the Census is over, the next big thing on our calendar of events is the Māori electoral option.

If you’re of Māori descent you can choose to be on either the General electoral roll or the Māori electoral roll.   You make this choice when you first enrol to vote. Once you’ve chosen a roll, you can only change rolls during the Māori Electoral Option.

The last Option was held in 2013, and the next one will take place from 3 April – 2 August 2018.   This week we met with Mona-Pauline Mangakāhia who is the Senior Project Leader – Māori Electoral Option.

Mona-Pauline comes from a whakapapa which enables her immediate understanding of many of the issues facing political participation and representation across Te Waipounamu.   She is of Ngāti Marutuāhu, Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngai Tahu, Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Ngārongo, and Ngāti Takihiku.



Helen Leahy, Mona-Pauline Mangakāhia, Maire Kipa, Talia Ellison and Rawa Karetai.

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Luke EganComment