Staff at a Maori research organisation in Wanganui are excited and happy with a funding boost and new and larger office building.

Te Atawhai o te Ao Independent Maori Research Institute for Environment and Health officially moved into its new building on June 23, and hosted an opening celebration there on June 27.

Not long before that it received a big vote of confidence from the health establishment.

On June 16 the Health Research Council announced Te Atawhai o Te Ao (TAOTA) would be one of four independent research organisations to share $27 million funding over four years. TAOTA gets $3.8 million, and fellow Wanganui Maori research organisation Whakaue Research Services gets $2.8 million.


The other two recipients are the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research and the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand. All four were deemed to have "significant research capabilities supporting national outcomes in areas of government priority".

TAOTA co-director Dr Cherryl Smith said the funding gave her organisation the confidence to keep building its capability.

It currently has just five staff. Business manager Adrian Rurawhe has left to campaign for election as a Labour MP, leaving his role to Miriama Cribb. But there will soon be more people in the building.

The upstairs of the large new office in Wanganui's St Hill St has been converted into living space for indigenous scholars from overseas. The first two are due later this year, and more could follow. TAOTA has relationships with universities in Canada, the United States and Australia.

The building is landbanked for Treaty of Waitangi settlement, and TAOTA's landlord is Tupoho Investments.

TAOTA is researching intergenerational trauma, in a big project called He Kokonga Whare that has been divided into four parts. Two of those are contracted out, one to Ngai Tahu and the other to Waikato. The project still has three years to run. It has a new project on asthma starting this year, and will be working with Wanganui schools and Otago University's School of Medicine.

At least 70 people came to the opening of the building, Dr Smith said. She and co-director Paul Reynolds spoke about their current work, and Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi CEO Graham Smith spoke as well.