Te Ohonga Ake Trust

Providing youth leadership opportunities

Three boys in Wairoa marae

Type of Funding

Partnership Grant

Year of Funding


Amount of Funding


Morehu Munro is determined to elevate young people in the small Hawke’s Bay town of Wairoa. Supported by the MAS Foundation, his Te Ohonga Ake project aims to break the cycle of crime, gangs and drugs for future generations.

Wairoa’s statistics around crime, health, educational outcomes for Māori are not where they should be, so Morehu partnered with local youth worker Bronson Tither to show that “Wairoa is more than that.”

Morehu was born in Wairoa and says his childhood involved spending a lot of time outdoors with his family. But today’s tamariki growing up in Wairoa experience very different childhoods, he says. “A whole generation has missed out on these experiences. I see our rangatahi, our young people, congregating under the bridge and in the skate park.”

Morehu has been running outdoor education for young people, getting them out exploring the region’s mountains, bush and rivers. He says these experiences can help rangatahi build up their confidence and boost their resilience.

Morehu and Ngamoko Munro 1024w

Morehu and Ngamoko Munro

Breaking the cycle

The Māori concept of tikanga is about establishing right and wrong ways of doing things and is modeled to children by the older generation.

“Wairoa’s young people were continually seeing tikanga that encourages violence, drugs and gangs. These things are now entrenched in their whakapapa, and they in turn become the perpetrators. The future of our community depends on the support we can give our young people so they can flourish and prosper and break this cycle.”

This is why Morehu set up Te Ohonga Ake, which provides marae stays and leadership opportunities for the town’s young people. It gives young people a chance to develop their skills, connect with who they are, learn about Māori values and customs, and take on leadership roles.

The initiative grew from informal conversations with kaumātua (older people) who have been left to look after their mokopuna (grandchildren), whose parents were involved in gangs or using methamphetamine, says Morehu.

“I’m a firm believer in the idea that, if you want to change the parent, go for the child. They will drag their parents along with them.”

Fostering future leaders

Te Ohonga Ake kicked off with a 7-day wānanga in January 2022 for 50 young people. A group of 10 to 17-year-olds were tasked with planning and managing the wānanga, with oversight and support from experienced adults.

“These are kids who have been let down all their lives,” says Morehu. “Giving them the responsibility to deliver this event helps give them confidence and courage while telling them it’s ok if they fall over. We trust them, and in turn, they trust us.”

The group spent the week staying on a marae, connecting with their roots, learning about their heritage and genealogy and being introduced to tikanga and Māori values. They also enjoyed an art programme and adventure activities like kayaking, mountain biking and waka ama. They also heard from experts on relevant health issues like sexual health, alcohol and drugs.

Morehu identified and shoulder-tapped the cohorts through his community connections. While numbers were capped at 50, there are many more rangatahi in Wairoa who would benefit from the programme. From Wairoa’s population of around 5,000, there are 900 young people who are not in employment, education or training.

“Rangatahi ownership is a big part of this project. We’ve given them the right equipment, a Health and Safety Officer and access to the right experts, and we expect them to manage the rest. Unless anyone is in imminent danger, we won’t interfere.”

Morehu Munro

MAS Foundation heads Dr Julie Wharewera-Mika (tangata whenua) and Mafi Funaki-Tahifote (tangata tiriti) believe Te Ohonga Ake is a great example of the kind of community-led initiatives the Foundation is looking to support.

“The strong collaboration and partnership approach with local rangatahi, kaumātua, whānau Māori, hapū, kura kaupapa and kaupapa Māori researchers, aligns closely with the MAS Foundation values,” says Julie.

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