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?
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.