Like all Māori, I’m a melting pot of whakapapa/ancestry.
I have whakapapa links to all corners of Te Tairāwhiti. My hononga (connection) up the coast is through the Wharehinga, Haenga, Raroa, Ngatai, Kururangi and Toheriri whānau, my strongest connection being to Waipiro and the Poroporo due to my grandparents, Morgan Wharehinga and Rita Haenga.
Through my nan on my mother’s side, Jane Huinga Cookson, I have whakapapa through the Katipa, Terekia, Taihuka, Kewa, Peneha, Nooti, Moeau, Kakere and Tiratahi whānau; my strongest connection being to Waihirere, Mangatu and Manutuke.
I could connect myself whakapapa wise distantly to Tāmanuhiri, but my strongest connection is via my daughters and their tino connection to Muriwai.
I have English and Te Arawa heritage coming through my grandfather, Bob Cookson. He was a school teacher and farmer out at Te Karaka, I loved him very much growing up. I love him still today.
My nanny Rita is also a Kahawai/Peeti from Whangaruru up North, so I have a connect up there too.
I’ve spent most of my life in Gisborne, leaving to go to university and returning as quick as I could. I love the East Coast. 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 young adults, who currently attend Gisborne Girls’ High School, Lytton High School and Massey University. 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 and continues to be our saviour. She is a baker, social worker, evangelist and adopter of stray youth. It’s my mum who taught me how to serve. While the circumstances in which I was raised weren’t ideal I am thankful for my upbringing; it has helped inform 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 researching; particularly around fatherhood, 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.
In the past, 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, Lytton High School and Fight for Life Education.
I have a background in education, having worked in primary and intermediate for the Gifted and Talented Education – GATE programme for Tairāwhiti REAP and at secondary level for Gisborne Boys’ High School. I also have held leadership and management roles at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa as an Academic Advisor, 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 a third term elected councillor on the Gisborne District Council. I was also made the Deputy Mayor at the end of the last term. I am the deputy chair for the District Licensing Committee and am a trained Hearings Commissioner chair. Our council is tasked to serve our 50,000+ residents in our beautiful region.
I have been elected for a second term to the Hauora Tairāwhiti District Health Board on which I serve as the Deputy Chair. This ended in July 2022. I was then appointed by Iwi, to our Iwi Māori Partnership Board, Toitu Te Ora.
I have recently been appointed by the Hon Minister Nanaia Mahuta as an Honorary Adviser for the Asia New Zealand Foundation, as a Director to Gisborne District Council’s CCTO Gisborne Holdings Ltd, responsible for $120M+ of Commercial Assets for the Gisborne District, and as a Trustee to Core Education Charitable Trust, a charitable, not-for-profit company that provides public good services for the education sector.
In the past I have served as a board member of Te Mana Whakahaere – the governance board for Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, Aotearoa Scholarships Trust, Te Maruata Roopu Whakahaere – the Māori advisory board to the Local Government New Zealand board, and the Audit, Risk and Finance committee for Local Government New Zealand to name a few.
If you would like to read more about me personally then feel free to peruse my personal blog entries.
If you have come here for my Masters about Traditional Māori Fatherhood in Contemporary Times, then click here.
Mēnā, he pātai ano tāu, tukuna mai tetehi īmera ki ahau koa.
Any questions, then please feel free to email me.
Kia tau nga manaakitanga o te runga rawa kia koutou, kia tātou katoa.