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‘Being ready to reciprocate’

One of those Waikato academics now connected to the College is Auckland University of Technology (AUT) lecturer Dr Dean Mahuta. The 38-year-old could easily be the face of a marketing campaign for Waikato.

Auckland University of Technology (AUT) lecturer Dr Dean Mahuta

He’s a former student of Huntly’s Te Wharekura o Rakaumangamanga, a graduate of Otago University and AUT. Key influencers for Dean were his cousins Nanaia and Tipa Mahuta, and Waikato statistician Professor Tahu Kukutai and her brother Arama, who co-founded one of the world’s leading AgTech venture companies.

Armed with a Tuumate Maahuta scholarship, he intended to study science and become a geneticist. But he had an ‘aha moment’ when Professor John Moorfield encouraged him to study Maaori. He ended up with a Bachelor of Arts with honours, and began a dissertation on the Kiingitanga and whānau support for this long-standing institution. His master’s thesis looked at raupatu or confiscation and his doctorate focused on the Waikato River claim.

“The river became the weaver of these three stories,” mused Dean. “For me it’s about being available when people call … being ready to reciprocate that gifting of knowledge to you.”

Twenty-five years ago, Waikato Maaori had the lowest number of people with high school and university qualifications. 

Those figures are improving – slowly – and the tribe’s education plan, Te Mana o Te Matauranga, may offer solutions.

Waikato-Tainui General Manager Education and Pathways Raewyn Mahara says the tribe has realigned its priorities for the next 12 months following the global pandemic COVID-19 to help develop whaanau and marae sustainability.

“There will be a focus on retraining, a focus on what our talent pool is, what  our transferable skills are, how do we position ourselves into spaces where we can support our whaanau to be business owners, to be knowledgeable in water storage and land utilisation so no matter whatever may happen in the future we are taking care of business for ourselves and leading the way.”

The current cadre of Tainui leadership identified by Sir Robert Mahuta two decades ago are  now in governance roles within and outside the tribe. Cheryl says the college plans too add to this by producing or connecting with other shining lights.

“I think there’s some opportunities for the Matanga Network … not necessarily because they have a PhD but because they are tribal members and want to make a broader contribution.”