Our suc­cess sto­ries

There are en­claves of suc­cess in Huntly west, in­clud­ing a lo­cal kura and the town’s rugby league club. But can this suc­cess be repli­cated in other parts of Huntly?

Waikato Times - - Front Page - Donna-Lee Biddle re­ports.

Te Wharekura o Rakau­manga has been re­ferred to as be­ing the is­land in the mid­dle of Huntly west.

The tag comes as a re­sult of a strin­gent en­rol­ment pol­icy, and from those who – for what­ever rea­son – don’t sup­port Ma¯ ori medium ed­u­ca­tion.

Deputy prin­ci­pal Rangi­marie Mahuta couldn’t care less, though.

Her stu­dents are suc­cess­ful in school, they go on to have suc­cess­ful ca­reers and more im­por­tantly, they’re re­silient. The kura has 455 stu­dents on its roll, ca­ter­ing for Year 1 to Year 13. Last year, the kura’s Year 12 stu­dents achieved the coun­try’s top NCEA Level 2 re­sults for a decile one school.

‘‘We get a lot of crit­i­cism be­cause we’re a ‘hard to get in’ school,’’ Mahuta says.

‘‘But it’s not hard to get in be­cause of how much money you have to pay or who knows who in the zoo – it’s about who you are and what you’re do­ing here. If we don’t know your fam­ily, we’re gonna ask them a mil­lion ques­tions.

‘‘Some peo­ple make it through, some peo­ple don’t. Our kids are so

im­por­tant that I don’t just want to in­vite any Tom, Dick or Harry in to muck up our flow.’’

Mahuta has worked in Huntly for 24 years and lived there for 15. Her daugh­ter at­tends ko¯ hanga across the road from their newly built home at Waahi Paa, and two cars on the marae road counts as a traf­fic jam.

Work­ing and liv­ing in the com­mu­nity means she is heav­ily in­vested in the fu­ture of Huntly. But her main fo­cus is her Rakau­manga kids.

She says the un­der­ly­ing suc­cess fac­tor is that ev­ery­body makes an ef­fort to make sure their kids achieve. Six ex-Rakau­manga stu­dents started univer­sity last month, so four of the teach­ers went along to the powhiri to sup­port them. The stu­dents and teach­ers are heav­ily in­volved in kapa haka, waka ama and rugby league, so as a re­sult, the kids are too busy to get into trou­ble.

‘‘I sup­pose I’m not favoured in the com­mu­nity by some but I don’t care – I’m non-ne­go­tiable,’’ Mahuta says.

‘‘These are our kids, it’s a proven suc­cess, we know that it works so you ei­ther get on the waka or get the hell out of my way.’’

Mahuta says the town gets a whole lot of bad public­ity; it’s al­ways in the spot­light for fight­ing, for crime, for theft, for drugs.

‘‘Some­thing that we’ve seen in the com­mu­nity is a lot of our par­ents have had to go away for work.

‘‘We’ve had a big flight for the mines in Aus­tralia, so what they do – be­cause of the wha¯ nau dy­namic, is the grand­par­ents are look­ing af­ter their moko – which is still good. There’s lots par­ents hav­ing to go away and work and they send money back.’’

Faced with many ad­ver­si­ties, it has meant the teach­ers at Rakau­manga are ac­tively teach­ing their kids to be re­silient – of­ten in the face of those in their own com­mu­nity who see a suc­cess­ful per­son as some­one need­ing to be brought back into line.

‘‘It’s that tall poppy syn­drome thing too,’’ Mahuta says.

‘‘We make sure we’re good peo­ple off the field first.’’

It’s a Thurs­day night at Rugby Park in Huntly west.

The Tani­wha­rau Rugby League Club se­nior teams are weeks out from league sea­son but train­ing kicked off in Jan­uary. The turnout is im­pres­sive; close to 40 play­ers at­tend – boots laced and an­kles strapped.

Head coach Harley Raihe runs a tight ship. Train­ing starts at 6.30pm sharp and for those who are late, well – let’s just say they’ll work up a sweat be­fore they’re able to join the train­ing.

The play­ers look sharp on the field and they surge through the drills with ease. But com­mu­ni­ca­tion is lack­ing and the coach isn’t shy about let­ting them know. They re­peat the drill un­til they get it right.

It’s their com­mit­ment to train­ing and to im­prov­ing their game that saw Tani­wha­rau crowned the 2017 Waikato rugby league cham­pi­ons. More re­cently, they were named Grass­roots Club of the Year at the New Zealand Rugby League awards ear­lier this year.

And sev­eral of the club’s for­mer play­ers have gone on to have in­ter­na­tional rugby league ca­reers, in­clud­ing Lance Ho­haia and Wairangi Koopu.

Chil­dren from the ju­nior teams stay and watch the train­ing and most are fix­ated on the speed in which the ball is be­ing thrown.

Raihe was raised in Huntly, and is also a teacher at Te Wharekura O Rakau­manga.

He puts his club’s suc­cess down to its cul­ture and the club’s val­ues: man­aak­i­tanga (be­ing hos­pitable and kind), aroha (show­ing love and com­pas­sion), and whanaun­gatanga (de­vel­op­ing a re­la­tion­ship that pro­vides a sense of be­long­ing).

‘‘We are a very kau­papa Ma¯ ori driven club and we are very staunch to that kau­papa.’’

Huntly was a town that thrived be­cause of the min­ing, Raihe says.

Sev­eral of Tani­wha­rau’s play­ers were min­ers – some have left while oth­ers have been forced to com­mute else­where.

The club has sur­vived the loss of play­ers be­cause of em­ploy­ment, but a new threat presents it­self.

‘‘The em­ploy­ment has kind of dropped so that’s a con­cern and with the new ex­press­way be­ing built, we’ve yet to tell whether it will be a good or a bad thing.

‘‘We had about four or five rugby league clubs in Huntly, now there’s only one.’’

Never one to take a de­feat ly­ing down, Raihe and his club hatched a plan and joined forces with the Huntly Rugby Club.

Dur­ing the sec­ond round of the 2018 sea­son, the two clubs will play their home games side by side, and they plan to in­vite the Huntly com­mu­nity – not only to at­tract new mem­bers, but in the hopes its youth will be able to see how sports can be a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence.

●➤ The next in­stal­ment of West­side Sto­ries looks at the role lo­cal po­lice play in a com­mu­nity plagued with crime and un­ruly youth.


Te Wharekura o Rakau­manga deputy prin­ci­pal Rangi­marie Mahuta with stu­dents Sher­raine Low­ery, Jakarta Whangakati­pa­pahi and Kopo Nikau.

Tani­wha­rau Rugby League Club coach Harley Raihe is proud of his team and achieve­ments. In­set, the team in ac­tion.

Stu­dents thriv­ing at school are from left, Merepaea Eke­tone, 12, Te Aroha Wil­son, 11, Tipene Wil­son, 12, and Tyali Raihe, 11.

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