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Whakawhiti Ora Pai Community Health Services


posted by Alastair McLean on 4 April 2012

In 2006, Northland’s Whakawhiti Ora Pai was highly commended for a nutrition programme supporting kaumātua and kuia to transfer skills and knowledge to younger generations.

Hei Oranga te Iwi o Whakawhiti Ora Pai was delivered into far north communities around Te Kao – on marae, in schools and online.

It used fresh produce as the basis for learning food preparation, preserves, recipes, traditional knowledge and values and encouraging whānau responsibility.

Whakawhiti Ora Pai general manager Errol Murray said getting whānau enthusiastic about gardening had not been successful in the past.

This, he said, was attributed to the fact that traditional Māori gardens covered huge areas. For many whānau, the thought of a garden seemed too big. A new approach was needed.

‘Our health promotion team talked to our kuia who reminded us that when they were young, they gathered food seasonally with their whānau and then preserved it,’ he said.

‘As the kuia told their stories they had the idea of gathering the stories into a book.’

This culminated in Preserving Kai, which was produced by the kuia.

‘The seemingly simple project involved hours of work and mobilised the whole community.  It went beyond preserving food and telling stories.  It was about community development and action,’ Errol said.

‘Sharing knowledge gave us a much greater appreciation of resources and resourcefulness.’

Errol said that the legacy of Hei Oranga te Iwi o Whakawhiti Ora Pai remains alive and well today. 

‘In any health promotion exercise, our kaimahi are always talking about the importance of good nutrition,’ he said.

‘It is threaded throughout all our communication at all age levels, whether we’re working in our kōhanga reo or with our kaumātua and kuia.’ 

Sharing knowledge was also a key aspect in the next Whānau Ora Award for Whakawhiti Ora Pai. 

In 2008 they were awarded for Kura Manaaki, a holiday programme designed to strengthen the sharing of tikanga and teaching of protocol and values to tamariki and taitamariki.

 Kura Manaaki was initially delivered on a number of Far North marae and now, more recently, at a camping ground on Ninety Mile Beach.

Kura Manaaki topics include rongoā (tradition Māori balms and remedies), mahi a rehia (weaponry), raranga (weaving), waka ama, marae kawa and tikanga, and kai oranga (healthy kai).  

‘We run up to four Kura Manaaki holiday programmes each year,’ said Errol.

‘We usually try to work with no more than a dozen kids, and we’re never short of helpers.  Some parents give us a day of their time or produce from their garden to help make the programme affordable for them.  We have some very talented mothers who bring their recipes and cooking skills. We also have a big elderly population who are more than willing to offer advice, guidance and tools.’

The programme highlights the health promotion team’s commitment to employing education and empowerment to prevent illness and showing how connectedness can restore, develop and maintain quality relationships within whānau, hapū and iwi.

‘We usually target our tamariki – our children – because they’re the most at risk … but in doing that we have to look at the whānau, and then at our kaumātua and kuia. 

They’re all linked, they’re all dependent on one another,’ he said. 

‘It’s a real bonus for us that we all live in the hearts of our communities, so we’re all involved with our schools and with our marae.’

By emphasising the key concepts of physical, emotional and spiritual health along with the importance of whānau in daily practice, Whakawhiti Ora Pai aims to improve total wellbeing and enhance cultural identity, through a range of clinical and health promotion services. For more information, go to: