Noho Taiao, Te Rarawa Anga Mua : Kaitiakitanga

The inspirational journey of the Te Rarawa Noho Taiao programme began in earnest – and somewhat ironically – a decade ago after attempts to secure public funding failed.

Disappointed their application had been knocked back – but undeterred and convinced there was a real need for their programme, funded or not – organisers decided to push ahead anyway; they’d simply run the event ‘on the smell of an oily rag’.

Over the years that followed, the organisers’ faith – both in their chosen course of action and in the young people of their rohe, whose lives the programme has positively influenced – never wavered.

The unique, marae-based initiative uses cultural identity linked to science to inspire and empower young Māori. Using mātauranga Māori, it also supports job enrichment for students in environmental sciences. An initiative which saw it judged winner of the Kaitiakitanga award at the Northland Regional Council’s inaugural Environmental Awards. 

In its first year, the noho was held at Ngāi Tupoto Marae at Motukaraka and drew about 30 young people from about 15 of the more than two dozen Te Rarawa marae; last year there were more than 50 tamariki from most – if not all – 23 marae.

The Te Rarawa leadership group that runs Noho Taiao each year includes iwi members Mina Pomare-Peita, Paul White, Selena Bercic, Joanne Murray, Wendy Henwood and Wiremu Sarich.

Reflecting on the events that saw Noho Taiao win the Kaitiakitanga category – (and narrowly miss being named supreme winner) at the regional council’s inaugural Environmental Awards, group members put it down to a shared vision and commitment to the kaupapa, and the tenacity to keep going.

“This win belongs to the young people and the many marae who have supported Noho Taiao over the past 10 years.”

“For more than 10 years Noho Taiao has brought our taitamariki together to expand their horizons, focus on the pressing environmental issues facing hapū and iwi, and to build their cultural esteem,” they explain.“

Our environment is a place of learning and our stunning young people go on to take their place in the world. The best thing is that Noho Taiao gives the new generation an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors.”

Noho criteria includes that young people have to whakapapa to Te Rarawa marae, although they could be living elsewhere.

“We even had kids come back from Australia to stay with their nannies for the duration of the noho.”

The programme certainly impressed the awards’ judges, who before announcing kindergarten Comrie Park as eventual supreme winner, made a point of singling Noho Taiao out as an ‘exceptional project’.

Naming it as runner up supreme winner, the judges said Noho Taiao stood out amongst the other finalists, deserving a special mention for its “amazing mahi to change the lives of young Māori”. “This project demonstrates the living-laboratory approach in action. It is meaningful and relevant, lifting achievement levels and encouraging increasing numbers of Māori into science careers.”

“This is a real success story for Te Rarawa iwi members who developed the programme, and for the students, mentors and professional agencies that provide support. ‘Inspirational’ comes to mind.”

Watch the Noho Taiao, Te Rarawa Anga Mua video