Māori community heroes go beyond call of duty

By Tepara Koti
Hiwa I Te Rangi Community Award 2017 finalists - Image / File

The Hiwa i te Rangi Community category for the annual Matariki Awards has been established this year in special recognition of the outstanding contribution and achievements of community initiatives over the past year.

The finalists in this category include Ricky Houghton - Te Korowai Trust, Te Puea Memorial Marae for their Manaaki Tangata initiative, and Mike King - Key to Life Charitable Trust.

Ricky Houghton is the chief executive of He Korowai Trust in Kaitaia, he affiliates to Te Paatu, Ngāti Kahu and Ngāti Whātua.

Ricky and He Korowai Trust have been committed to improving the quality of life for Māori families in the far North region.

In the past year, they celebrated several key projects, which involved recycled whare providing affordable home ownership for whānau; an early childhood centre; emergency accommodation; a social growth and economic innovation hub; and a safe home for men as an alternative to prison.

Ricky said the dream has begun for the families who have moved from “some of the most horrible living conditions you could imagine."

He said, “There’s been a lot of lessons learnt … it’s been a journey of hope and discovery.

“But what we have ended up with is an affordable Māori home ownership model that can hopefully be rolled out to other regions to our relations throughout the country.”

In May 2016 Te Puea Memorial Marae in Māngere, South Auckland opened its doors to the homeless to get them out of their cars and garages and off the streets as winter settled in.

Hurimoana Dennis spearheaded the Manaaki Tangata initiative which placed 130 families in homes and having upwards of 56 families staying on its premises.

By offering to accommodate the homeless, Te Puea found itself at the centre of national attention and awareness around the issue of homelessness and the impact of the city’s housing shortage on the poor.

In an interview with Native Affairs late last year, Hurimoana said, "We're an indigenous model; front door - back door, what we do in terms of helping people get into homes has very much a kaupapa Māori āhuatanga."  He went on to explain how the initiative was characteristic of Te Puea Hērangi, who the marae is named after.

This week Te Puea Memorial Marae opened its doors again, saying their Manaaki Tangata programme will run for six months.  They will be specifically focusing on family groups (mum/dad & children, or solo parents & children), hosting five families at a time until they move into housing.  The doors re-opened on Tuesday 18 July, 2017.

Mike King (Te Māhurehure, Hokianga) has championed his Key to Life Charitable Trust since 2012.  The aim of the trust is to reverse the population trends of depression and suicide by effecting positive social change.

He's spoken to over 35,000 children, from ages seven to 17, telling his life story – including his battle against depression, addiction and self-destruction – to show it's possible to survive your darkest moments and go on to thrive.

Mike takes a completely unorthodox approach and is getting out into schools to talk with the youth and communities, engaging them so that the conversation will continue and not be swept under the carpet any longer.

He says, “The trust is committed to our long term goal of a zero suicide rate in New Zealand. While many will say this is not achievable, we acknowledge the magnitude of this task and believe in the benefits of an outstanding goal rather than a continued satisfaction with mediocrity."