Pou Whakawhirinaki

Helping raise the economic, social, cultural, and environmental outcomes of Te Arawa and its whānau underpins everything Te Arawa Lakes Trust sets out to do.

This natural progression of our mahi and kaupapa was the genesis of our new Pou Whakawhirinaki team, focusing on embracing and uplifting Te Arawa to improve the social outcomes of our people across a range of sectors, including health, education, and employment.

Pou Whakawhirinaki aims to be the Te Arawa voice around the table, ensuring agencies in these key social sectors deliver for Māori across our rohe.

A current focus is supporting the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in our rohe, working with our hapū delegates to deliver marae and community-based outreach clinics to reach whānau in the places and spaces that they know best. Without the dedication and mahi of our hapū delegates, this kaupapa would not be possible.

This widened focus is part of our cultural values framework, Te Tuāpapa o ngā wai o Te Arawa and complements our ongoing mahi in the environment sector.


Relationship Manager

Taparoto Te Rerehau Nicholson

Tainui, Te Arawa, Mataatua Aotea me Takitimu

With more than 30 years’ experience in the Cultural Heritage, Education and Tourism sectors, Taparoto has been involved in numerous projects advising Marae, PTIs, CRIs, companies, local government and other government agencies in areas of organisational development including staff development, cultural supervision, education and tourism. These included the development of education and training programmes for Te Wānanga o Raukawa and Aotearoa.

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Taparoto’s governance experience includes membership on various boards, including current roles on Te Runanga o Ngai Te Rangi Trust, Ngai Te Rangi Settlements Trust, New Zealand Geothermal Association, Geothermal Nuclear Science Governance Boards.

Taparoto joined Te Arawa Lakes Trust in May 2021, bringing extensive cultural and relationships experience to the new role.

Pou Arahi | Project Manager – Te Arawa COVID-19 Response Hub

Laurie Watt

Te Arawa, Ngāti Whakaue

Being able to serve Te Arawa whānau, walking alongside them to help them achieve their dreams, goals and aspirations in the most seamless way possible is what drives Laurie in her mahi.

Laurie has been actively involved in Te Arawa COVID Hub since its inception, particularly working with hapū delegates to support our whānau and helping drive the rollout of the COVID vaccine in our rohe.

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Laurie’s current role in Pou Whakawhirinaki sees her leading the team at the new Te Arawa-led COVID-19 Call Centre, building on her experience in the past 20 years where she has been serving whānau in health, hapū whānau and whānau ora roles.

Pou Arahi | Project Manager

Mere Vercoe

Te Arawa, Tainui, Aotea me Takitimu

Mere recently returned home to Te Arawa after working and living in Auckland for the past 20 years. Joining Te Arawa Lakes Trust in April 2021, Mere is responsible for helping our people find employment.

With a background in both the education and health sectors, Mere has been a team leader at the University of Auckland and worked across hospitals in the North Shore and Waitakere.

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One of her greatest passions is working for and alongside our Māori people, but she is also comfortable working with Crown agencies to achieve better outcomes.

Growing up, Mere watched both her grandparents and parents working for our iwi and she always knew that, eventually, she would end up doing the same. This is why she jumped at the opportunity to become a part of Pou Whakawhirinaki, where her project management skills could be utilised.

Pou Arahi | Project Manager

Kim Richards

Te Arawa – Ngāti Tura/Ngāti Te Ngākau, Ngāti Awa – Ngai Tamaoki/Ngai Tamawera me Tūhoe – Ngāti Haka Patuheuheu

Kim has spent 24 years working in the social services sector, harnessing her skills and passion to help and support Māori.

Some of her previous roles include working in Lakes DHB – Māori Mental Health, Te Arawa Whānau Ora and Te Waiariki Purea Trust, where she was the family harm co-ordinator.

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Her current role at Te Arawa Lakes Trust is Project Manager for the Te Arawa COVID-19 Response Hub, working alongside hapū delegates to support the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine in our rohe.

For Kim, practising whanaungatanga and building relationships is key to every role she takes on as it creates a safe, trusting, and nurturing environment. Through genuine and responsive conversations, Kim builds strong and meaningful relationships with her whānau, hapū, iwi and the wider community.