Inaugural Wānanga for Youth at WIO

by Bree Arnott

We had an amazing four days from 6 – 9th April for Te Kupenga Rangatahi Wānanga 2021, as rangatahi from our Manaaki Tāpoi programme were inspired to continue their journey in Te Ao Māori through workshops, inspiring speakers, collaborative art and collective performance.

The idea for the wānanga was conceived, developed and then coordinated by some of our Manaaki Tāpoi graduates who were keen to continue their Manaaki journey, with assistance from WIO. The leadership team successfully applied  for funding from RUIA, a partnership between organisations and government (Rata Foundation, Te Putahitanga and MYD) to support rangatahi wellbeing. “Thanks to funding from RUIA the students were able to contribute to the design & development of the event. It took a lot of effort to coordinate and was a valuable learning process for them,” says Nettie Stow, the Projects & Funding Lead at WIO.

The wānanga started with students spending a day preparing for the arrival of manuhiri and preparing the venue. The following day the students took a central part in a mihi whakatau at Whenua Iti Outdoors before departing for Moutere Hills Community Centre (MHCC) where the engaging workshops took place. Students had the opportunity to learn Mau Kōrari, a contemporary form of Māori stick fighting, from Tānemahuta Gray – a leading Aotearoa bi-cultural choreographer. He was impressed with the students who attended. “The Māori youth that attended the conference provide me with wonderful confidence that our future community connectivity is in safe hands,” said Tānemahuta after the event.

Other highlights for the students included learning from Ronald Petley, a local artist & carver who led a collaborative art piece, Kiwa Denton, an ex-Manaaki student, facilitating an Ōku Moemoea  (dreaming) workshop and Sean Delany, from Te Āwhina Marae, who led the students in Ōku Whāinga goal setting.

“It is important to provide opportunities for Māori youth that support their continued learning in Te Ao Māori. The wānanga aimed to connect students with inspiration for their future and we hope more opportunities like this can be created” says Mark Bruce-Miller, General Manager at WIO.

Linda Heath, who helped organise the event from WIO, felt the event was a real success for the students who attended. “We were thrilled with the opportunities this event generated for our students”, says Linda. “It was amazing to watch our leadership team step up and run the event – I’m so proud of all of them.”


We were fortunate to have Tānemahuta Gray join us for the wānanga as the Kaikōrero matua (guest speaker) and also to lead the students in Mau Kōrari – a form of Māori stick fighting infused with contemporary movement. Tānemahuta Gray is one of New Zealand’s leading bi-cultural choreographers and currently leads Taki Rua Productions; Aotearoa’s Māori theatre company. His story, which is one of following your dream, and his energetic choreography were an absolute highlight for the students. He introduced mau kōrari in complete silence – an incredible feat in a room of teenagers! The silence honed their concentration, encouraged self-learning and was magic to witness.

The Māori youth that attended the conference provide me with wonderful confidence that our future community connectivity is in safe hands. The rangatahi were very focused on the mau rākau work (Contemporary Māori Martial Arts movement style) that I instructed them, and learnt so much in such a short amount of time. The highlight for me was the students presenting their mahi on Rabbit Island beach, on a beautiful Motueka sunny day, much like our ancestors (tipuna) may have done in days gone by. – Tānemahuta Gray

As part of the workshop sessions, the students also had the opportunity to learn from Ronald Petley, a local artist & carver, who facilitated a collaborative piece of art in which each group of students added a layer to the design. The finished artwork will be displayed at Whenua Iti, and will be a wonderful reference to the wānanga, to mahitahi and to the journey these rangatahi are on.

Following on from their workshop sessions and performance, the students were led by Kiwa Denton to start dreaming. Kiwa, a graduate of Manaaki Tāpoi, became an instructor at Whenua Iti Outdoors before moving to Christchurch to pursue further study, completing a Diploma in Youth Development, then continuing his studies at Canterbury University. His path was a true inspiration to current students who were able to imagine the possibilities in this session for their own futures.

The final day culminated in reflection and goal setting led by Sean Delany who is dedicated to bringing about positive change in Māori communities by teaching leadership, Māori values and spirituality. This enabled the students to set clear goals through a guided reflection process.


A huge thank you to all of those who contributed to this event, to WIO instructors and staff who did an amazing job and to RUIA for funding this opportunity for the students.

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