Plans for a local te ao Māori curriculum have been hailed as setting a "new benchmark".
Tauranga Moana iwi are developing a localised te ao Māori curriculum for Tauranga schools, early childhood education centres and the wider community.
The project, called Te Tai Whanake ki Tauranga Moana, will encompass foundational te reo Māori, local tikanga, stories and history, and be a resource for all educational organisations in Tauranga, as well as being accessible to the wider community in the future.
The Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust, which has put funding towards the plan, said the curriculum was for 67 Tauranga schools, early childhood centres and the wider community.
It is being developed by Tauranga Moana iwi Ngāti Pukenga, Ngāti Ranginui and Ngāi Te Rangi, along with Kāhui Ako (Communities of Learning).
Ngāti Ranginui education manager Toni Heke-Ririnui said the project was "uniquely Tauranga Moana" and signalled the first time the three iwi had been brought together with one goal in mind.
"Iwi are working together for the betterment of all iwi and to help feed into the community a greater understanding of who we are."
She said a local curriculum was important "to understand where you are, to understand the stories of the people that you're with and to have empathy for the history that has been in this area".
The project is in stage one with the preparation of the scope of work, project action plan, and Memorandums of Understanding.
In May, the project will move to stage two, where the curriculum will be developed and built based on consultation with the local Māori community, their hapū and marae.
Heke-Ririnui said developing the project would take time.
"We want it to be the best it can be and we're not in the space where we want to rush it. We're still in consultation with iwi members, our people, our hapū."
Ngāi Te Rangi education manager Arohanoa Mathews said the programme would normalise Tauranga Moana iwi narratives and histories in classrooms and it was important this was iwi-led.
"It's putting our iwi names on the map of education.
"We've never had seat at the table in the educational space whereby iwi are valued as an integral part of the process or in a leading role and not just an add on. It's building capability and capacity to be long term and sustainable.
"We've heard about deficits for so long ... We want to flip that upside down and build on aspirations by our people, for our people."
Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis said the project was a "significant development" in terms of localised curricula.
"[It] sets a new benchmark for how communities can work together to respond to local needs," he said.
"This is true partnership in action ... [Iwi] have broken new ground and are using this to reset the stories related to Tauranga Moana.
"This kaupapa highlights the importance of relationships and relevant curriculum, and recognises that local communities know what's best for local communities."
As well as Mathews and Heke-Ririnui, the Te Tai Whanake ki Tauranga Moana Kaitiaki Group includes Tauranga Peninsula Kāhui Ako lead Ken Ward, Otepou School principal and education manager for Ngāti Pukenga Iwi Reg Blake, Ōtūmoetai Kāhui Ako lead and Ōtūmoetai Intermediate principal Henk Popping and Ministry of Education manager for Western Bay Vianney Douglas.
Blake said it was an amazing feeling to be sitting at the table with Tauranga Moana iwi.
"It's not that we don't come together as one but this opportunity provides that for us ... It opens the doors to other kaupapa, to other topics as well.
"To work together with our iwi is a huge opportunity and huge honour and privilege."
Popping said during the past 100 years there had been no formal reciprocal engagement for Māori communities with schools and the project aimed to change that.
"The Kāhui Ako and iwi used to sit at separate tables, but over time as our relationships have strengthened, iwi are now active members of each Kāhui Ako in Tauranga Moana.
"Collaboration is the key with this project. It's the one thing that is different that's never been done before. There have been various things that are similar across the country, but what is unique is we have three iwi collaborating with every school in our region."
He said the project would mean children would have greater empathy and understanding of local history.
Heke-Ririnui said the school curriculum could also be a community curriculum and the hope was that as children were taught, that would flow on to the wider community and future generations.
"It's also about moving away from the stories of Gilbert Mair and those that are alike and understanding why the naming of Durham St, Cameron Rd, Pyes Pā, Gate Pā is still quite offensive to our people.
"It enables these narratives to be brought to the forefront because its not the Gilbert Mair stories that are being heard it's Ngāi Te Rangi, it's Ngāti Ranginui, it's Ngāti Pukenga, it's for our wider community to be aware of histories that come from our perspective."
She said the curriculum would include Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Treaty of Waitangi as long as Tauranga Moana stories were at the forefront of how that was delivered.
Ngāi te Rangi representative Charlie Tawhiao said while he hadn't been involved in developing the curriculum, he welcomed it.
"From my perspective, improving understanding of the position of local iwi as opposed to Māori is a really important step forward in terms of creating a strong united community with a better understanding of our history."
Historian Buddy Mikaere said the curriculum was a "wonderful initiative" that reflected a changing community.
Mikaere said a Tauranga-specific curriculum would give people a sense of identity.
"We've got a great history and that should be celebrated."
Ngā Pōtiki ā Tamapahore Trust chairman Colin Reeder congratulated the group on the "exciting development", but said the trust was committed to the co-design, development and delivery of a Ngā Pōtiki Pāpāmoa centric histories curriculum.
"From our conversations with our Pāpāmoa schools, it is clear the preference is for a localised curriculum that builds on the traditional narratives centred on the Ngā Pōtiki cultural landscapes and seascapes, korero, marae visits and wananga that Pāpāmoa schools are familiar with," he said.
He said the project, in collaboration with Pāpāmoa schools, would operate in tandem with the design, development and delivery of a Ngā Pōtiki Pāpāmoa te reo Māori curriculum and was an extension of education programmes the iwi had already been running in schools over the past decade.
Heke-Ririnui said the group supported the concept of a Ngā Pōtiki Pāpāmoa te reo Māori curriculum but that would need to be led by Ngā Pōtiki.
The Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust has supported stage one of the project with $176,640 funded out of the Catalyst for Change fund.
TECT chairman Bill Holland said the project appealed to the trust due to its potential for a far wider application than just school use.
"It will give the schools a great platform to further develop and strengthen their relationships with local iwi and will support iwi in capturing and documenting their histories in Tauranga Moana to share with future generations as well as all local residents and visitors.
"We can see the potential for this information to be used in the city's storytelling through tourism and arts and culture sectors – it's just as much a development of our heritage and culture as an educational resource."