Whānau gather at Arowhenua Marae for Matariki

Matariki is a time for gathering, and for sowing new seeds. Hei Whakapiki Mauri has been blessed to witness both of these in the last couple of months. Our whānau continues to grow and bed deeper into the wairua of who we are.

We had a marae noho from 21-23 June at Arowhenua and people commented on two things – how connected we are as a roopu; and how similar we were to a movement. The message of unity and diversity, which is embodied in our tohu, is demonstrated clearly when we get together. Like every whānau we have our ups and downs, and there are times when whānau don’t have energy to gather together, but at our marae noho, the mauri of Hei Whakapiki Mauri is clearly evident. Our whānau gather, drive over 150 kilometres to do this, provide mountains of baking and really generous koha.

Prior to the powhiri, whānau had a sense of anticipation and following this, over the three day hui, grew deeper bonds and connections that didn’t dissipate when we travelled home. The weekend was to celebrate who we are during the rise of Matariki. We did this by sharing stories, laughter, crafts, cookies, and, as ever, raising our voices heartily in whatever tune comes out at the time. Thank goodness for a guitar on the Saturday evening! 

Here are a few photos that aptly illustrate the ways we acknowledge all the stars of Matariki.

Saturday morning was a time for vision boarding, collating the attributes of the whole whānau in a pictorial form, and making craft that represented who we are individually. We were very fortunate to have two beautiful activities on the Saturday afternoon, one was having the esteemed Dr. Terry Ryan speak with us about whakapapa and the other was a visit to the amazing rock art. Saturday evening was very much a dichotomy of emotions. The gratitude of Hei Whakapiki Mauri receiving a beautiful constructed tangi quilt from Waikura and the grief of knowing why this was needed. 

The quilt is a symbolic korowai and a stunning legacy for our whānau who have passed on. The colours and design represent:

  • Poutama – representing mana tangata 

  • Tui feathers – paua colours

  • Hei Whakapiki Mauri Tohu – representing unity and diversity

  • Silver water effect fabric – representing tangi roimata, and takaroa the wai, through which we enter Te Ao Wairua

  • Kawakawa leaves – tohu of tangi Parekawakawa

  • Heart – symbolising Te Puna Aroha

  • Piwaiwaka – another symbol we recognise during tangi

We finished the evening with, like every good hui, a series of uplifting waiata, led by Brett Russell. Sunday was a time of whakapai, planning forward for us as a roopu and acknowledging the hau kainga. It was unbelievably warm, both weather-wise and as a roopu. We acknowledged each other as we sat on the deck of Arowhenua, joined by some beautiful nannies and a kuri named Floyd.

A beautiful postscript emerged over the week as I heard on the kūmara vine that whānau from Arowhenua, and the inevitably-connected Simon (who biked) to Rapaki Marae were warmly greeted by the hau kainga there. Hei Whakapiki Mauri is continually humbled by not only supporting whānau but through being a part of the evolving stories of individuals, whānau and hapū that continue to weave the korowai for Hei Whakapiki Mauri.

Introducing Paige and Zahira

Paige and Zahira.jpg

Paige Harris and Zahira Mohammed are not only part of the hardworking Hei Whakapiki Mauri team; they are also valued members of the Hei Whakapiki Mauri whānau.


Paige started working with Ruth and Gary in February this year. She is very down-to-earth, speaking with such warmth about the Hei Whakapiki Mauri whānau that it’s easy to see that her role is much more than a job.

“Hei Whakapiki Mauri brings people together. They provide connections and in doing so have created a very special community of amazing people.

“I really enjoyed getting to know everyone in the whānau at the recent hui in New Brighton – it was so lovely to put faces to names. Everyone was really warm and welcoming. I very much feel like part of the whānau.”

Paige says that she sees the huge impact that Ruth and Gary have on people’s lives and says the support they offer is life-changing.

“Ruth and Gary make a big difference. Through Hei Whakapiki Mauri they give people the freedom to choose and empower them to live life their own way. And it’s not just one person whose lives they touch – it’s that one person and their family, plus another 69 people and their families. That’s a lot of people.”


Originally from Fiji, Zahira has been working with Hei Whakapiki Mauri for almost two years now, bringing with her significant experience from similar roles, as well as her bubbly personality.

“I have loved meeting new people and learning about a new culture, and am honoured to have been invited into a new community.”

Zahira says the role is very rewarding and loves that no two days are ever the same.

“I love the flexibility and variety of my role. The first week I was heading off to Dunedin, then travelling to Palmerston North and Invercargill, and at least once a week I go with Gary to Wellington. I have also been on a number of the activities that Hei Whakapiki Mauri organise and can occasionally be found baking too!”

Zahira is currently studying for her New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Level Four) Advanced Support, through industry training organisation Careerforce, and says being involved with Hei Whakapiki Mauri has greatly helped with her studies.

“Ruth and Gary encourage me to ask a lot of questions, so it has been great to be able to experience first-hand the important work they are involved in, including the advocacy work they do at a national level.

“They have also enabled me to study around my work, which has been really important. Ruth and Gary – and the wider Hei Whakapiki Mauri whānau – have shown me immense support over the time I have been here, so I very much feel like a part of the whānau now.”

Paige agrees. “It’s like going to work with your family.”

Marae Noho at Arowhenua

Marae Noho at Arowhenua

Join us for our first Marae Noho for the year - a chance to meet new whānau from across the Ōtautahi and Timaru areas, enjoy being together, to celebrate Matariki, and enjoy kai and plenty of activities.

We are delighted to be working with CCS Disability Action South Canterbury and the Arowhenua Runanga to host this hui at Te Hapa o Niu Tireni, Arowhenua from 21 - 23 June.