Our Māori Caucus

Te Rūnanga Māori

Our  Māori Caucus has a direct link to the Ako Aotearoa board, providing regular advice and taking overall responsibility for developing our Māori strategy and our service delivery framework, Te Tauākī Ako.

AKO Staff Profiles Rawiri Taonui

Dr Rawiri Taonui

Chair of Māori Caucus

Te Hikutū, Ngāti Pākau and Ngāti Korokoro; Te Kapotai, Te Uri-o-Rata and Ngāti Paeahi; Ngāti Rora; Ngāti Whēru; Ngāti Te Taonui.

Rawiri is an independent writer, researcher and advisor on Māori, Indigenous and Inter-cultural human rights. He was New Zealand’s first Professor of Indigenous Studies. Rawiri is a well-known political writer who has written over 400 newspaper and magazine articles and book chapters, winning seven writing awards.

Dr Taonui has presented at the UN Experts Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. He is a member of the Tribunal to Investigate Claims of Genocide in El Salvador.

AKO Staff Profiles Dame Iritana tawhiwhirangi

Dame Dr. Iritana Tawhiwhirangi

Nominated by Te Kohanga Reo National Trust

Ngāti Porou / Ngāti Kahungunu /  Ngāpuhi

Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi was one of the cornerstones of the Kōhanga Reo movement as a means to revitalize the Māori language.

Picking up on the playcentre philosophy of community ownership and management, Dame Tawhiwhirangi helped create a whānau development development model that is not only underpinned by cultural and administrative sovereignty, but has also created new opportunities in education and employment for Māori women, and whānau involvement.

Internationally, the Kōhanga Reo model is now the established benchmark for the regeneration of indigenous languages.

AKO Staff Profiles margaret taurere

Dr Margaret Taurere

Ako Aotearoa Board member

Ngati Kuri / Ngati Porou / Te Aitanga a Hauiti

Board member Dr Margaret Merimeri Taurere was previously a lecturer at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and is presently a teacher/counsellor at Te Kura Taumata o Panguru.

Margaret has enjoyed a long career in education, teaching at both primary and secondary school levels and working in Māori student recruitment and retention and for the Equity Office at the University of Auckland.

She has a doctorate in education and a master’s degree in counselling. During her career, she has developed an interest in support for Māori students in secondary and tertiary education, as well as support for Māori staff in education.

Margaret helped establish the Tertiary Education Māori Liaison Network and has worked with Māori liaison colleagues to create collaborative models for Māori student recruitment. Margaret has held national positions with the Tertiary Education Union and the Tertiary Education Commission, representing Māori interests.

AKO Staff Profiles kelly pender

Kelly Pender

Ako Aotearoa Academy Member

Whakatōhea / Te Arawa

Kelly is a dynamic teacher and leader who excels in supporting his students to achieve their potential. He has a very diverse range of students on his programmes and goes out of his way to build a whanau ethos within each class. Every student is valued for the contribution they make. He acknowledges his own role models as he has developed as a teacher and works hard to be role model himself.

Kelly was the recipient of an Award for Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching at the 2010 Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards. 

AKO Staff Profiles ivy harper

Ivy Harper

Ngāti Kahungunu / Tainui / Ngāpuhi

Ivy Harper has a demonstrated history of working in the education and environmental management arena, and has a keen interest in gender issues and human rights - particularly the rights of indigenous peoples.

Skilled in non-profit organisations, with strong research and analytical skills, Ivy completed an internship at Columbia University. There she studied indigenous rights and the rights of First Nations people whilst working with diplomats at the United Nations for the duration of her studies.

Ivy was able to bring these learnings back to Aotearoa where she continues to support Māori in the pursuit of their rights and interests.

AKO Staff Profiles lee cooper

Lee Cooper

TEU Te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa


Lee represents Te Tira Whakahaere of Te Toi Tauira mō Te Matariki on the Rūnanga where he’s been a member since 2015 and Deputy Chair from 2018.  He has been on Te Manu Mātauranga organising kōmiti since the 2010 inaugural Tuia Te Ako conference and chaired from 2011.

He has almost 20 years’ experience in academic and educational administration from the compulsory education sector to tertiary.  Lee previously managed the Equity fund for Māori and Pasifika students at Auckland University and is presently Te Pou Tuarā for TEU Te Hautū Kahurangi.

Lee is passionate about working with Māori and Pākehā to develop and advance the Tiriti relationship, and is concerned with social justice and equity for all.

AKO Staff Profiles stuart Lawrence

Stuart Lawrence

Nominated by the Industry Training Federation

Stuart 'Stu' Lawrence has held the position of National Manager – Māori at The Skills Organisation for the past 8 years.

In 2016, Stu was seconded to Waikato/Tainui (WT) by Skills Organisation to promote industry training in the WT Careers Centre. Stu’s involvement with Waikato/Tainui led to the formation of Te Rautaki Whakarōpū Māori (The Māori collective of 11 ITO’s) resulting in a Kawenata (covenant) signing between the Iwi and the collective group. He has held the position of Chair, Te Rautaki Whakarōpū Māori since its inauguration in 2017.


AKO Staff Profiles Teina Mataira

Teina Mataira

Nominated by Te Tira Manukura O Nga Kuratini

Ngāti Porou / Ngāti Kahungunu

Teina Mataira has twenty years’ experience in tertiary education in the ITP (polytechnic) sector, having held roles in foundation education, teaching, lecturing, student support and education management at AUT, MIT and EIT (Tairawhiti). He is the currently Pouārahi - Director Maori and Pasifika Education, UCOL.

Teina is a member of the World Indigenous Higher Education Consortium(WINHEC) and is also studying towards a Masters of Māori-Pasifika Development at the University of Waikato. 

AKO Staff Profiles Pohoira Iopata

Pohoira Iopata

Māori caucus member

Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa, Te Whakatōhea, Te Arawa, Tūwharetoa.

Board member Pohoira Hughes – Iopata is the representative for Te Mana Ākonga on Te Rūnanga Māori. She has a passion for te reo Māori and all that encompasses te ao Māori. Pohoira is a strong advocate for the well-being of tauira Māori already pursuing further study and assuring their voices are heard.

Pohoira is a Lecturer of te reo Māori at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi. She has a degree in Māori Development - Māori Media through Auckland University of Technology and is also a graduate of Te Pīnakitanga ki te Reo Kairangi through Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.