Business South Dec / Jan 2022

10 | Alternative learning facility proves a hit Kelly Deeks REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT Whāriki Business Network Reigning Downs - Hauora Centre Whāriki has partnerships with some of New Zealand’s largest corporate organisations. Maori business hub shows strong growth Karen Phelps A new Māori business network is seeing strong growth with businesses signing up to the platform each week. Whāriki Business Network started as the brainchild of a small group of Māori business owners and professionals in 2016 seeking a dedicated group in Auckland. Starting with networking meetings the group quickly grew and in 2020 became a fully-fledged entity. “Our name Whāriki, a traditional woven mat, is a metaphor for how each individual within the network is woven together through whakapapa, friendships and ongoing relationships. As individuals we are strong but together we’re even stronger,” explains Whāriki Business Network chair Heta Hudson. Part of the growth of Whāriki has seen successful partnerships with some of New Zealand’s largest corporate organisations, including Facebook, Air New Zealand, Spark and Auckland Unlimited, to continue to offer support and assistance to Māori businesses. Whāriki already has a regular column in Air New Zealand’s Kia Ora magazine to showcase Māori businesses and has recently partnered with Facebook to deliver digital training programme Boost with Facebook to over 350 SME business owners across the country. “The adoption of digital technologies has had a democratising impact by lowering barriers to entry for whanau to start a business utilising online and social media platforms. Whāriki believe that utilising these platforms and the ability to tell their own story is game changing for SMEs,” explains Heta. “That kind of exposure is important. Although we often hear about the successes of large iwi corporations, we also need to recognise and celebrate the successes of our Māori SMEs. When Māori see other Māori running successful businesses we want them to say to themselves: ‘I could do that too’.” He says there are certain things that make Māori businesses unique. “More and more we are seeing businesses that are developing products and services that bring a strong cultural element. Often the business is a means to an end to enable a broader kaupapa or passion for the business owners.” He points to Northland based apparel and clothing business Taiao as an example, whose driving force is to promote and develop the understanding and use of te reo Māori. Heta says the next phase for Whāriki will involve connecting people who want to start or grow their business to the right resources and expertise as well as continuing to showcase Maori businesses. “Through building connections, businesses have enjoyed direct sales, collaboration and inspiration opportunities and we are finding more and more opportunities as to how we can assist from a capability building perspective. At the heart of what we do is building whakawhanaunga (relationships) so Māori can see that they can achieve whatever they want to achieve.” Recently a new website – – has been launched. Heta says eventually the aim is for this to be an online hub for all things Māori business featuring stories, events and content aimed to inspire pakihi Māori. Currently there are over 350 businesses listed on the directory and people can search by region or iwi to support whanau business owners. When low decile Invercargill high school teacher Jade Ward saw the backwards effect of the NCEA programme on her students, she decided to do something about it, and quit teaching shortly after. For the past 12 months she has run Reigning Downs-Hauroa Centre, a one-of-a-kind alternative education facility combining education with equine experiences to improve the hauora (wellbeing) of New Zealand rangatahi (youth). “Academically, many of these students were in a world of their own, just trying to survive and never finding any form of success whatsoever in a world that says they can’t achieve, while being pushed through to get the grades and the credits for the Ministry,” Jade says. “It didn’t feel right to me. The basics have to be there before the academia can shine through. I want to give these kids the essential skills they need without the academic pressure.” A competitive equestrian for 30 years, Jade saw these essential skills on display every time she worked with her hōiho (horses). Perseverance, confidence, leadership, responsibility, commitment, and problem solving skills are practised constantly and consistently through working with horses, and eventually become the embodied key competencies that NCEA falsely assumes all students already have. Jade already had her farm, Reigning Downs, her horses, and a very willing and welcoming family to help. She developed a pilot programme which was launched in November 2020. She was to work with a group of girls referred by Murihiku Young Parents Learning Centre, and she initially surveyed them to discover their concerns. “I found out they were worried about how society perceives them, being so young, so I based their course around propaganda and social influence, and used that as a stepping stone for how the rest of the group’s day would be run. I’m designing courses around the needs of the individual or the group.” Prior to the start of their course, participants come to Reigning Downs to meet Jade and the horses. “By the time they have their first session, the barriers are broken and the anxiety about being in a new place with new people is gone. They feel welcomed, and on day one we are getting positive outcomes already.” There is a classroom at Reigning Downs where Jade and her participants sit down together to learn, to set goals, and to reflect before they begin practical activities with the horses in either loose boxes, the tie up area, or in the property’s competition-sized arena. Participants’ achievements and successes are rewarded every single session, with Jade structuring each course in a way that allows for participants to achieve something different every time. Each of the nine horses at Reigning Downs, including ponies for the little participants, has been professionally schooled by Jade. With the whānau of course participants also reaching out to Reigning Downs, they are welcomed by Jade’s parents Mary and Ben with a cuppa and a chat. Jade is hearing feedback about how the family vibe of Reigning Downs helps participants to push themselves because they feel supported and safe. “It’s so cool to see the development of the participants. Children who had behavioural issues at school are now winning awards for student of the week. I’ve never told anyone I’m a therapist - I use education and it ends up with therapeutic benefits. I know all the background stories of these participants but I don’t probe them about it. It’s a clean slate when they come here, and soon enough they start opening up to me.” Reigning Downs focuses on hauora (wellbeing), manaakitanga (taking care of the mana of others) and whanaungatanga (kinship). Jade says the culture within the sport is starting to change locally, and at equestrian events there is an apparent shift towards the support of each other. Reigning Downs is growing and Jade has started to employ staff within the past three months. She wants to keep her hands on the reigns, being always available for one-onone sessions while still being accessible for new people coming in. She wants to make Reigning Downs-Hauroa Centre accessible for parents who don’t have access to that funding or those referring agencies and is working through strategies to achieve this. “I never want to be in a position where I have to turn people away.” VETSOUTH ARE PROUD TO SUPPORT REIGNING DOWNS - HAUORA CENTRE BALCLUTHA | GORE | WINTON | INVERCARGILL | LUMSDEN | OTAUTAU | CLYDEVALE | TAPANUI 0800 VETSOUTH | A range of tried & trusted products suitable for NZ Equestrians 027 291 0702 63 Tiverton Downs Rd, Reporoa Proud supporters of Jade & the team at Reigning Downs Excellence in Equine