Maori obesity rates and unemployment among young people are just two of the six key issues a group of local organisations have vowed to tackle in Rotorua.

Waka Whakamua will be officially launched as a Rotorua-based community collective next month.

The collective is made up of 30 providers, businesses, churches and organisations that are focused on working together to deliver services supporting and strengthening youth, whanau and the wider community.

Its vision is to transform whanau and have a thriving community. It plans to achieve this by "combining community resources to maximise potential".


The six focus areas are health, employment, community, whanau, faith-based and crime.

Within each focus area, a key issue has been identified through extensive research. These issues include homeless solo parents, children in Koutu lacking basic necessities, obesity in Maori aged 25 to 44, unemployment of 20 to 24-year-olds and Maori male offenders aged between 20 and 29.

The organisations working under the community focus area will support and market the collective and provide engagement with the wider community.

Rotorua's Bella Moke, a member of the Maori Women's Welfare League, is the chairwoman of the Waka Whakamua steering committee.

She said the collective was about getting a "whole community response" to social issues.

"In order to deal with the issues Rotorua faces we identified that something different needed to happen. That's why the collective came about.

"The key thing is making changes that can be measured. The fantastic thing will be being able to make an impact in the community that people can actually see."

The collective was the brainchild of Wera Aotearoa Charitable Trust director Israel Hawkins who has been setting it up since January last year.

"Our charitable trust had a five-year strategic plan and in year three we made a commitment to provide a holistic approach to the complex social issues experienced in Rotorua."

Mr Hawkins spent time in Australia where he took a framework for this kind of collective and "contextualised it to a Maori community so it would work in Rotorua".

"We invited anyone and everyone to be a part of this, the only criteria was a desire to contribute to the improvement of social issues in Rotorua."

Gold's Health and Fitness owner Steve Gardiner is one of the providers working to reduce obesity in Maori adults.

"What we can do may just be a drop in the bucket of a big issue, but by identifying a specific issue - obesity rates in Maori between the ages of 25 and 44 - we will be able to make a real difference in those people's lives.

"I've been in the industry for 27 years and it has always been my goal to improve the health of our community but it is hard doing it on your own. I saw the power of working together and see the potential to achieve so much more.

"The organisations who have taken up this opportunity share the same vision, the same heart and we are sharing the load.

"Hopefully we create a ripple effect and people will want to be a part of this change."

Focus areas:
Health: Reducing obesity rates in Maori aged 25 to 44
Employment: Enhancing the employability of 20 to 24-year-olds who have been on job seeker benefits.
Community: Supporting and marketing the collective in the community.
Whanau: Helping children aged 5 to 11 in Koutu who lack the basic necessities to function effectively.
Faith Based: Supporting solo parents who have been made homeless through no fault of their own.
Crime: Reducing crime by Maori males between the ages of 20 and 29.