A group of young Maori have returned to New Zealand after a trip to the United Nations in New York with a drive to use what they learned back home.

The Moko Foundation sponsored 12 Kiwis to attend the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in mid-April and three were from Rotorua.

Mana Vercoe, Te Rua Wallace, and Te Wehi Wright have all brought knowledge home with them from the forum themed around indigenous land rights.

Wright, 25, said the trip was eye-opening.


He went thinking he would learn lots about the way other indigenous cultures advocate in their own countries but instead realised how lucky he was.

"It changed our focus we were going to bring things back home but we used it as a platform to inspire the other groups," Wright said.

"I kind of realised indigenous people were all at different levels of development ... I'm not saying our relationship is perfect but it's a lot more developed."

Vercoe, 16, said he learned a lot.

"It was awesome to see all these strong-minded Maori people together," he said.

Mana Vercoe (front) at the United Nations. Photo / Supplied
Mana Vercoe (front) at the United Nations. Photo / Supplied

"I think what surprised me was how far Maori have come compared to other indigenous nations. We have systems put in place that advantage the disadvantaged."

He enjoyed being able to take a bit of Aotearoa to New York.

Te Rua Wallace, 21, said she learned from the people she was surrounded by.


"There are a lot of things I've taken from the trip I can apply back here in Rotorua and New Zealand," Wallace said.

"I have the strength, courage and motivation to carry on doing things for the environment and know I have like-minded people to support me."

She said the group that went would stick together and continue to talk about what they could apply in their own areas. They also wanted to plan an event to include the other 300 people who applied to go on the trip but missed out.

Wright lives in Wellington but is originally from Rotorua and said the group did not want its work to stop.

"There are more opportunities that can come from this."

The group outside the United Nations in New York. Photo / Supplied
The group outside the United Nations in New York. Photo / Supplied

He said they wanted to "mobilise our rangitahi" so they were politically aware, culturally assertive and socially engaged.

"We will be the ones that will inherit the land."

The group has called itself He Kuaka Marangaranga.