I’m a melting pot of Māori ancestry, with English heritage coming through my grandfather, Bob Cookson. My grandparents on my father’s side are Wharehinga/Haenga from Waipiro and Poroporo. My Haenga nan is a Kahawai/Peeti from Whangaruru up North. My grandparents on my mother’s side are Cookson/Katipa from Rotorua and Waihirere.
I’ve spent most of my life in Gisborne, leaving to go to university and returning as quick as I could. I love Gisborne. I am a committed father and fatherhood is something I prize highly. I am dedicated to the educational, social and cultural aspirations of my six teenagers, who go to Gisborne Girls’ High School, Te Kura Kaupapa o Horouta Wānanga, and Lytton High School. My eldest is in his second year of his Construction apprenticeship.
Early in life I grew up around drugs, alcohol and gangs due to the male figure who was brought into our house. My mother was our saviour, she is a baker, social worker, evangelist and adopter of stray youth. While the circumstances in which I was raised weren’t ideal I am thankful for my upbringing and the opportunities I have had as an adult. I live in Kaiti and enjoy the beauty and diversity around me.
I have a passion for improving community health and education, community led initiatives, supporting tertiary education, making music and research; particularly around gangs, poverty and increasing Māori outcomes. I just completed my Masters, my research topic was traditional Māori fatherhood. I intend to either study an MBA or continue on to my doctorate.
As the Chair of the Community Organisational Grants Scheme (COGS), administered by the Department of Internal Affairs, I facilitated grants to over 200 different East Coast community organisations, totalling more than $800,000 over the last three years.
During my chairmanship of the Ka Pai Kaiti Charitable Trust (KPK) I negotiated significant financial support from the Gisborne District Council, to help the Trust with Kaiti development work over ten years. I regularly advocate on behalf of our communities at both local and national governmental levels.
I have kept myself active in the community space by being involved in the Kaiti community, and in the background with the likes of Feed Tairāwhiti, Gizzy School Lunches, East Coast Dance Crew, Horouta Waka Hoe Waka Ama club, Gisborne Intermediate School and Fight for Life Education.
I started my professional life in 2003 as a secondary school teacher, and have held a range of leadership and management roles. As Academic Advisor at Te Wananga o Aotearoa, I managed 16 staff from five degree programmes, and was responsible for the research outputs across the 80+ staff in my area and the academic quality of our delivery to 1000+ students.
I am currently an elected councillor on the Gisborne District Council, having been voted in on the by election in 2014 and again in the 2016 general election. I sit on the Community Development Committee, Finance and Audit and the Environmental Planning & Regulations Committee. I am the deputy chair for Finance & Audit and the District Licensing Committee. Our council is tasked to serve our 50,000+ residents in our beautiful region.
I am also a board member of Te Mana Whakahaere, the governance board for Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. I sit on the Academic Board and the Aotearoa Scholarships Trust. Our organisation serves the needs of tens of thousands of students every year and is the second largest tertiary education provider in Aotearoa New Zealand.
I have most recently been appointed to the Hauora Tairāwhiti District Health Board. I sit on the Community & Public Health Advisory Committee, Aged & Disability Support Advisory Committee and the Staffing & Governance Committee.
I am also the deputy chair for Te Maruata Roopu Whakahaere, the Māori advisory board to the Local Government New Zealand board. Under this role I also hold a seat on the Audit, Risk and Finance board for LGNZ.
If you have any questions then please feel free to email me.
Kia tau nga manaakitanga o te runga rawa kia koutou, kia tātou katoa.