Wish we'd thought of that: Amazing Māori innovation

Wish we'd thought of that: Amazing Māori innovation

Whether it’s the Te Whare Tapa Whā health model or the ancient juice squeezer known as the tāwiri, Māori innovation has been key to Aotearoa’s development. Do you have a unique contribution to tangata whenua that you think deserves to be recognised at the 2017 New Zealand Innovation Awards in the Innovation in Māori Development category, sponsored by KPMG?

The 2017 New Zealand Innovation Awards are open for entries. If you've got an amazing product, service, process or venture – or you know someone who needs to be shoulder-tapped – now’s the time to get it out there. And to help encourage entries and showcase the categories, we’re going to be regularly showcasing the best innovations we come across. We focus next on ideas that are producing positive change for tangata whenua.


Squiggle won last year’s Innovation in Māori Development at the Innovation Awards. Founded in 2014, Squiggle’s Young Engineers programme is a STEM-centred programme that runs in schools and Kaupapa Māori. Taught in Te Reo and English, the programme is taught throughout terms as part of science curriculums, after school hours, and during the holidays at nearly 50 schools and Kaupapa Maori in the Waikato, South Auckland and Rotorua. “We’ve had to come up with a lot of new terms for engineering terms and concepts,” explained co-founder and director Ariana Paul to Idealog last year of the challenges of running the programme in Te Reo Maori. “That’s been a challenge, but so rewarding.”

In getting the programme going and spreading to schools and Kaupapa Maori, local iwi support has been critical, Paul explains. “They’ve been huge!” she exclaims. “We’ve been so fortunate to have iwi support. It’s been a game-changer.”

Manaiakalani Education Trust

Winners of the Excellence in Social Innovation & Innovation in Education, Training & Development at the 2016 Innovation Awards, Manaiakalani Education Trust’s Manaiakalani Programme looks to improve student achievement for 12 mostly decile 1A schools in the Auckland suburbs of Glen Innes, Point England and Panmure. These areas are Auckland’s oldest state housing community, and 95 percent of students from the areas are of Māori and Pasifika heritage. With a focus on digital learning so students can gain digital fluency to become more engaged citizens, the Manaiakalani Programme is not only achieving improved educational results, but also realising the potential for enhanced employment and life outcomes for students who take part.

In short, the Trust supports parents to buy a personal digital device for each student, provides wireless internet access at home and school, and supports Manaiakalani teachers in their continuing innovation in learning methods. They’ve also received some generous support from big-name donor. Spark Foundation donated $1 million in 2013, followed by a further $1.2 million in 2014-2015. Vector contributed $100,000, while’s foundation donated $100,000 to the Trust after the artist made a surprise visit to Point England School in early 2013. On top of that, the Trust also counts such companies as Google and Samsung as technology partners.


Have you ever wondered why some people always seem to have more than enough money while others seem to perpetually live from hand to mouth? While many would argue its due to deeply-ingrained prejudice and discrimination and an inherently unfair capitalist system that elevates some while exploiting others, KidsCoin believes the answers is in understanding what money management is all about.

To help teach young people about money, the company has created an easy-to-use educational program designed to teach students real-world money skills in a fun and practical way in a classroom environment. The program can be tailored to suit any educational curriculum and the lessons are arranged to simplify learning.

Te Aka Dictionary & Te Reo Maori app & Tamata Toiere e-repository of waiata and haka

At the core of Te Ipukarea (the National Māori Language Institute) is the pursuit of excellence in scholarship, teaching, and research in the Māori language. Te Ipukarea has also developed and advanced a digital strategy for the creation, delivery, and assessment of Māori language curriculum and the collection and dissemination of Māori knowledge. From online language tutorials and animations to digital recordings of interviews with native speakers of the Māori language, Te Ipukarea provides a broad range of online resources.

The Te Aka Dictionary, Te Reo Māori app and Tāmata Toiere e-repository of waiata and haka are all several examples of these resources and initiatives, which help to make sure the original language of Aotearoa not only survives in the 21st century, but thrives, with a new generation of Māori and Pākehā Te Reo speakers.

Ruapehu Whānau Transformation Project

A working group making a positive transformation for the people of Ruapehu rohe (made up of Raetihi, Ohakune, and Waiouru communities) with help from the Ngāti Rangi Trust, this project has identified five key focus areas (education, employment, housing, health, and social well-being) for the Ruapehu rohe.

As kaitiaki of the area, Ngāti Rangi has a responsibility to the natural resources within it. The notion of kaitiakitanga is innate through a connection to their tupuna maunga, Koro Ruapehu.

Within the focus areas are goals for helping local iwi, including increasing the percentage of healthy homes, lifting numeracy and literacy rates, increasing availability and access to local health services, connecting local jobs and local workers, and building stronger whānau through connected, cohesive, and collaborating communities. There’s also an online report outlining the plan – as well as how it will be achieved.

 Do you have an innovation worth celebrating? Check out the categories for the 2017 Innovation  Awards, and tell your story by clicking here

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