Our Tāiki e whānau live across Te Tairāwhiti and come from a variety of backgrounds.
Meet the people behind the magic.
Brings a wealth of experience across government, business and community development sectors. Director of Kiko Innovation leading a range of innovation ecosystem development projects from Tairāwhiti. Currently studying towards his PhD where he is investigating the Aroha Economy.
Debs loves data! She is constantly searching for ways to harness data for identifying problems and experimenting with solutions. Debs is the founder of tech startup Awhi App which delivers real-time wellbeing data to organisations and workplaces.
End of Life Doula
Passionate about people knowing all their choices around natural death and dying. Working on community projects so information and resources are easily accessible. Eco Burials, funeral poverty, natural care. Promoting death literacy and encouraging others to be empowered with knowledge.
Renay is a Director of Kiko Innovation. She brings skills and expertise in event coordination, finance, administration and marketing. She has held finance roles with Kiwibank and BNZ. She is passionate about empowering whānau with the tools to create and define their own success.
(A.K.A Lobo Wolf) is a Colombian national who came to Aotearoa as a refugee. Brings a lot of positive energy to the Tāiki e! whānau skills across gardening, podcasting and mindfulness. Runs a Podcast series called "Hour of the Wolf" covering a broad range of topics relevant to Tairāwhiti.
One of the first quota refugee minors in 1989. Worked in diverse roles both in NGO and government sector. Held roles in the Pacific and with Aboriginal youth in Australia. A UNESCO artist, currently a full-time artist and the founder of arts based initiatives Prints for Good & Toi Rito Arts for Social Action.
Founder of Ask Alice, company focused on supporting the digital enablement of community organisations in Tairāwhiti. Passionate about politics and community development, including creating spaces for greater youth voice in local democracy. Has supported a number of the local charities and NGOs through Tairawhiti Community Voice.
Josh is originally from California. He is a professional photographer having studied at the New York Institute of Photography. He has travelled extensively throughout the world and always been entrepreneurial having started and managed a number of different businesses. Also an avid learner of permaculture principles, Josh is passionate about living sustainably with the land and empowering our community to access nutrient dense food.
Mariska Van Gaalen
Burgeoning mushroom farmer. Passionate about building circular economies and excited about developing social entrepreneurship in Tairāwhiti. Moved away from New Zealand as a 10-year-old and came back in 2019 to reconnect to her home and community. Recently launched M0W (Mushrooms Zero Waste) to apply the principles she believes in.
Riria Haturini - Te Reo Coach
Hails from the big metropolis of Rangitukia. The founder of Te Hā O Te Reo, a multi-modal Māori language learning and coaching service. 35 years experience teaching te reo Māori, facilitating a learning system that is embracing of different learning styles, abilities and goals. Currently working through digitising elements of her business to reach a broad audience.
Robbie Wood - Systems Thinker
Has a background in medicine. Thinks deeply about systems-led inequality. Is currently working in the mahinga kai space with Kōkiri Kai in Kaiti, shares his expertise across a range of community settings empowering others with knowledge. Brings some good philosophical chat to Tāiki e!
Seda Naden- Community Engager
One of the team from Awhi App, Seda is a master jedi of social media, content development and engagement. She brings vibrancy and a beautiful energy to the Taiki e! whare and all those she engages with. She is working with te Kura-a-Wao Trust to delievr bush camps for rangatahi, and also works with Young Enterprise Trust to support greater Māori engagement. She is a proud māmā and passionate for sustainability and being a good Kaitiaki for mokopuna and whenua.
Ron Taiapa - Tohunga Mahinga Kai
Ron has have over 25 years experience working in tertiary education. His specialty is working with rural communities to design programmes which helps meet their educational aspirations. Most of the work I have undertaken has been in the primary industry and community computing fields. A real tohunga around mahinga kai and maramataka.
Steph Barnett - Rangatahi Development
Enthusiastic, driven and outgoing, Steph has a strong sense of
purpose as a professional creative and as an educator. She brings a wide skillset and range of professional experience that includes animation, digital design, painting, teaching in schools, creative workshops, film acting, performing and directing for stage. Leads the Tāiki e! Next Gen kaupapa growing young entrepreneurial and leadership talent.
Vicki Hiha - Kai Rāranga / Hauora
With a background in nursing and youth development, Vicki has spent the last 5 years perfecting her raranga (flax weaving) skills in her small business HTH Artworx. Vicki and her husband Martin have also started up their own business He Timatanga Hou that specialise in culturally connected workplace training around wellbeing and supporting organisations to create healthy and connected workplaces.
Martin Hiha - Counsellor
Martin is a qualified counsellor, social worker and teacher with many years of experience in working throughout Te Tairāwhiti. Martin's approach is a mix of strengths based, behavioural models, with a view to building the foundation of the person. A keen fisherman, hunter and surfer, Martin loves the outdoors.
Emelie Verseput - Entrepreneurial Support
Emelie is the community and project assistant at Venture Centre, where she is dedicated to building the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Tauranga. She is also a co-founder of Wā Kai, a meal is a meal-sharing platform where people from the same community are matched based on location, household size, food budget and dietary needs. Emelie is passionate about entrepreneurship, sustainability, startups, innovation, impact, digital marketing and creative thinking.
Vesna Radonich - Waka Ama Coach
Vesna is a world champion waka ama paddler, International Paddling Coach, athlete, mum, and community champion who shares her knowledge and expertise with people in Tairāwhiti and around the world through coaching, online memberships, mentoring and workshops. She support her clients to develop strategies and tools for empowerment that help them to be faster and smarter on and off the water.
Cherish Wilkinson - Communications
Cherish specialises in communications development and delivery and has extensive experience in Māori development initiatives; community engagement; social media and digital communications campaign development; project direction and management; and content development. She is now working as Senior Māori Communications Advisor with Sport NZ Ihi Aotearoa, as well a being a co-founder of meal sharing platform Wā Kai.
Phil Kupenga - Technology Workforce
Phil is the Director of Next Chapter which specialises in Business Analysis, Project Management and Career Consulting and Transition services. Phil’s early career was with the New Zealand Police, before embarking into the field of Business Analysis where he’s spent the last 14 years. Phil's passionate about getting more Maori into high demand technology professions especially in Tairāwhiti, and has been piloting a tech bootcamp initiative with Dev Academy from Tāiki e.
Maria Wynne - Youth Activator
Meet Mac, the ultimate community youth activator. With a fiery passion for social innovation, youth leadership, and entrepreneurship, Mac has made it her mission to inspire and empower the next generation of changemakers. Armed with a rebellious spirit and an unwavering commitment to justice, Mac fearlessly challenges the status quo and relentlessly pursues her vision of a world where young people are given the tools and support they need to create meaningful change. Whether hosting workshops, organising events, or mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs, Mac leads the charge towards a brighter future.