A campaign to raise awareness about cervical and prostate cancer arrived in Levin on Monday.

Smear Your Mea was started by late Rotorua woman Talei Morrison in 2017 after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and found she was unable to find educational material that connected with her as a Māori woman.

The campaign was based on the concept that women can find cervical screening terrifying and invasive if they are not fully informed, and creating a connection with women and health providers would improve the efficacy of the message in Māori communities.

Morrison, a prominent kapa haka performer, Māori women's advocate and 42-year-old mother, used her diagnosis and profile to create the public campaign and try to ensure others did not have to go through what she did.


She died in June last year.

To remember Morrison, and continue her message, Ride For Talei, left her graveside at Kauae Cemetery in Rotorua to cycle to Wellington and carry her message to the thousands of attendees at Te Matatini Kapa Haka Festival, under way this week.

At Morrison's funeral last year, her friend Tiria Waitai said she planned to continue the Smear Your Mea campaign and aimed to have 100 per cent of the kaihaka (performers) up to date on their smears by the next Te Matatini festival.

The cycling group and its support crew in vans emblazoned with Smear Your Mea have travelled through central North Island towns distributing information about cervical cancer and prostate checks.

The group includes Morrison's family members and close friend and former MP Te Ururoa Flavell.

At a welcome event at Te Takeretanga o Kura-hau-pō in Levin on Monday, Flavell, who had known Morrison well, and whose children had grown up alongside hers, said he wanted to help raise the profile of the campaign.

"I got next to her and said we could do some sort of bike challenge, as she was doing Iron Māori things as well," he said.

Flavell and Morrison had originally launched Smear Your Mea with a cycling event in Rotorua, so he felt it was appropriate to undertake the current ride, which Morrison had begun planning before her death, in her memory.


"Everybody's done the work," Flavell said of the ride. "We've had fantastic coverage on the road as we've gone."

Morrison's mother Sandy Morrison said she was very proud of her daughter's legacy, and that because people often did not talk about the health issues the campaign was highlighting due to embarrassment or fear, it was very important to make the conversation public.

"We all need to be a lot more open about what's happening, especially women," she said.

She said she felt very grateful for all the people who had supported or joined the ride and campaign as it made its way down the North Island, including in Horowhenua.

The group was hosted in Levin by Muaūpoko Tribal Authority.

Chief executive Di Rump said the message was vital for all Māori.

"Smear your Mea campaign is an important call to action for all of us," she said.

For more information: www.smearyourmea.nz