Kaihau Paitai, our Māori Systems Innovator has been in the role for a couple of months now and shares his reflections on his journey so far.

“Te ao Māori has always been a part of my life – growing up in the Coromandel and going to Kōhanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa and Wharekura meant that I have always had a close connection to my whānau, whenua, and community. Coming to University in Wellington in 2017, I felt lost because I didn’t know anyone and I had no connection to the whenua, or the community. But, with time came comfort, and I grew to love the land, and discovered a newfound whānau. The only missing piece was the connection to the community, which is why I was so excited to join the team at Healthy Families Hutt Valley.

Since starting in this new role, I have had the privilege to explore the local community and gain a glimpse into the rich history of the whenua. We have met with marae, worked in maara, visited community hubs, learnt pūrākau, and explored the implications of traditional values-based systems in our mahi. Each of these experiences has been extremely relevant for me, and the mātauranga gained is very necessary for our work ahead.

The kaupapa that our marae and Māori community are leading locally is absolutely inspirational. We have a resilient community of think-tanks, innovators, scientists, astronomers, teachers, leaders and all round hard workers.  

Learning about our community has also shown me the opportunity we have to tautoko our people. There are already local champions leading kaupapa to implement local solutions to the kai, wai and whenua challenges of Te Awa Kairangi, and we are here to tautoko!

Te ao Māori offers a different perspective to the dominant narrative, and it is critical for us to ensure that this perspective is given the respect it deserves. Going forward, there are still many questions: How do we ensure that our whānau Māori are appropriately represented and their voice is heard? And how do we ensure that tikanga is implemented in an authentic way?

If we truly aim to be a community where everyone thrives, we need to re-think how, who, and why we engage with the community. This is where my focus will be. Ensuring our principles and values are implemented into our everyday thinking and acting. As well as authentically engaging with mana whenua at every step of the journey.

Whakahokia te wairua me te mauri o te kaupapa ki te whānau, hapū, iwi.’