Tū te Ngana Hau – the Breath of Endeavour project (co-funded by Primary ITO and Ako Aotearoa) is different from other initiatives introduced to Māori communities along the Whanganui River.

That is mainly because this bespoke, collaborative, community-based project, initiated in 2018, is driven by the Māori people of the awa, with the local agency – Primary ITO – working with community leaders to reduce existing barriers to learning.

Whanganui River Māori residents want sustainable futures for their hapū. They want to continue living and working along the awa, and they want better health, wellbeing and pathways to education and sustainable employment too.

Formal education programmes on the awa continue to be offered but these are often dependent on funding and participant numbers. Due to the often-prescriptive nature of programmes, the implications for participants to commit and the challenges to deliver the programmes have proved difficult to complete.

“…many people come up the river to promise stuff and underdeliver, that’s why whānau are wary of outsiders.” (Awa resident)

Building confidence in people, sharing a sense of hope and a hunger for learning can inspire individuals and entire villages for good.

Project vision and goal

  • The vision of this project is to help a Māori community living along the Whanganui River to grow and prosper, where they are.
  • Its long-term goal is to build skills for Māori to complete education and transition into the workplace.

Local Primary ITO representatives provided funding, resources and “guiding from the side”, with leadership from local community groups, practical input from trainers and locals with skills, and underpinned by co-funding support from Ako Aotearoa – the National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence. Matiu Julian and the team are presenting on this work at the forum.

Key benefits

  • Iwi/hapū as champions and drivers of the initiative
  • Local community coordinator was pivotal to the success
  • Main aim was to enable young school leavers and unemployed Māori living in villages along the river to move into employment and/or further training.
  • Overwhelmingly positive feedback received from the participants, providers and kaumatua, with much gratitude (plus those not directly involved but who are hearing about the positive impact the programme is having on the awa).
  • This project is completely transferable and can be used by other remote, regional indigenous communities and iwi.
  • The project offers a “koha” (gift) as an effective funding model for other funders to use when considering working with local and remote Māori communities.

More information about the project

Programmes of training in the first phase (2019) included:

  • Computers in homes and Computer skills
  • Pruning courses
  • Driver licence support and Excel Driver Training
  • First aid programme
  • Baking
  • Butchery skills
  • Food hygiene and safety

Already Tū te Ngana Hau is transforming lives of the people of the awa – from the rangatahi (youths) through to kaumatua. Some have taken health and safety courses; others have taken pruning courses to better manage their orchards.

For some, getting their driver’s license for the first time is a massive achievement that unlocks future possibilities and empowers them to imagine the “What next?”. what skills they may need to get a job in the local area, so they can remain living on the awa.

Primary ITO project co-lead, Matiu Julian, believes this project and its resources offer a great koha to government agencies wanting to run programmes like this with rural and remote Māori communities.

“Building trust through whanaungatanga (relationship building) comes first and this cannot be rushed. It is critical that ‘outsiders’ (funders/agencies) recognise that the rhythm of a people and their ways of operating needs to be accommodated with trusted people within the community leading the way.

“Allowing the locals to work with you to determine the what, how and when complemented by a flexible funding model allows for greater participation, meaningful learning, successful outcomes and a heightened sense of togetherness as people grow and a community comes alive.”

Project at a glance

The Tū Te Ngana Hau project highlights the positive change that can take place when agencies build whanaungatanga and trust with local people in remote areas to develop programmes of training and skills development the people really want and need to sustain their futures, in this case, along the Whanganui River.

  • Connected with 150-200 people across the awa
  • More than a dozen people gained their driver’s license
  • Five different programmes selected (including butchery skills, first aid, food hygiene and safety, computer skills)
  • Supporting initiatives included: Literacy and numeracy, business mentoring, community hauora day.
  • Uses a ‘user-pay’ model to deliver programmes

Sense of hauora the biggest success to date

Reporting to Ako Aotearoa in December 2019, Matiu summarised, “Perhaps the biggest success outcome to date for learners on the awa is the sense of ‘Hauora’- the sense of wellness that arises from being stimulated and looked after, a sense of growth and community spirit.

“We are hearing people share and celebrate their achievements and experiences and conversations around the table over kai, it’s observing whānau give each other a hand up when they need one and watching people grow in confidence with a renewed sense of purpose and hope that they are the ‘CEOs’ of their futures.” (From Milestone Report Three, Dec 2019).

Feedback from people involved

Tiara Ranginui – Programme Coordinator

“Tū Te Ngana Hau has empowered the people on the awa, myself included, on our Journey to greater things.”

Savannah Murray – young mum (completed her driving course)

“I am looking forward to see what courses/classes there may be, and to share my new found knowledge and maybe even gain that dream job.”

Marianne Farrell – National Literacy and Numeracy Manager, Primary ITO

“Some have moved into paid employment using skills and qualifications gained and all have gained new skills either to use in their current employment, their personal lives or for future employment.”

Siobhan Marshall – Trustee, TamaUpoko Community Trust

“I’m excited for the future of Tū Te Ngana Hau. Seeing the journey from where it began to where it is now – the possibilities for the people living in our remote community are endless. Led by the community, this programme is exactly what our people need in these trying times of Covid – an opportunity to upskill, learn and be empowered”.

Aunty Jude Treanor – awa resident

“This has been really a great opportunity for all our whānau [computer skills course], and I am lost for words.


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