Kōkiri celebrates 40 years of growth

Kōkiri board chairwoman Janine Kapa, left, and board member Shelley Kapua-Tarpey, both of Dunedin...
Kōkiri board chairwoman Janine Kapa, left, and board member Shelley Kapua-Tarpey, both of Dunedin, mark the 40th anniversary of the Arai Te Uru Kōkiri Training Centre on Thursday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
A Dunedin training centre "deeply passionate" about its work is celebrating 40 years of helping Māori to learn, grow and realise their dreams.

Dunedin’s Arai Te Uru Kōkiri Training Centre (Kōkiri) celebrated its 40th anniversary on Thursday.

Kōkiri is the only Māori private training establishment south of Christchurch, providing education, training and support to Māori families and the wider Māori community since 1983.

Kōkiri board chairwoman Janine Kapa said their 40-year journey had come with a "whole raft of emotions".

Managing to survive setbacks due to Covid and building regulations, the anniversary was something Ms Kapa felt "proud and grateful" for.

Ms Kapa had been a board member for five years and was appointed chairwoman just two meetings after she joined.

"We’re deeply passionate about what we do and the community we serve.

"We see tauira [students] come through and whānau engaging with Kōkiri and you see the things they’re trying to navigate in their lives, the tough stuff they have gone through and still go through, Kōkiri is a safe place for them."

Kōkiri was one of just 28 Māori educational centres of its kind in New Zealand.

"My experience and data tells us that not all mainstream institutions work for our people.

"We’ve survived through sheer grit and determination, through having a clear vision about our ‘why?’ and meeting a need in our community."

Many Kōkiri students had moved on to become teachers and later board members for the training centre.

One Kōkiri student, Tanga Tiatoa, went on to form a free youth group called Tamariki Together, focused on improving the overall mental health of rangatahi and creating a safe environment for them to grow and learn.

He described Kōkiri as a "beautiful legacy".

Mr Tiatoa would raise funds for his youth group through his food truck Te Waahi Taraka Kai which enabled him to provide them support free of charge.

"Kōkiri inspired me to carry on my dream."

The last living member of the council that founded Kōkiri, Valerie Walker, attended the anniversary celebration.

Kōkiri was formed by members of the Araiteuru Marae council as a pathway for young unemployed Māori to gain valuable work skills.