From a purely health-related organisation in 2015, Nga Tai o Te Awa has morphed into a Maori health, innovation and development trust under the leadership of Andre Taylor.

He got the job of chief executive in August 2015, when there were seven staff. Now there are 13 and Nga Tai o Te Awa (NToTA) has taken on youth and business projects.

Mr Taylor has ties to Parikino Marae and calls himself an entrepreneur. He's been a captain in the New Zealand Army, travelled overseas to 120 countries and managed a United States Government project in Africa for multinational engineering firm AECOM.

He likes to move quickly and comes from a business background.


"We are here to empower the region's Māori to thrive in their health and wellbeing," he said.

On the youth side NToTA now runs For Our Kids, a group mentoring programme, and what used to be the Awa City Clubhouse (now just Clubhouse) for Whanganui District Council.

It has expanded Clubhouse to include music, and is building The Loop recording studio. Mr Taylor would like a youth radio station too.

After Whanganui's Closet Space closed NToTA became a safe, nonjudgmental venue for a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth group.

Young people arrive after school most days and they keep the place lively, Mr Taylor said.

On the enterprise side, he wants NToTA to become the region's social enterprise hub, for businesses that aim to be socially and environmentally aware as well as turning a profit. He has allied with Wellington's Akina Foundation for this.

The trust has helped start some businesses already - Paula Fore's Local and Loyal mobile marketing app and Mel Maniapoto's Māori Toa triathlon.

It has a business of its own too, having bought into the design and printing franchise

It still has health-related contracts: Community Action on Youth and Drugs and Gambling Harm Minimisation/Suicide Prevention.

All of this is housed in a large building leased from the Tupoho iwi/hapu. The building is landbanked for Treaty of Waitangi settlement and also houses Te Puna Matauranga o Whanganui, the tribe's education authority.

Funding for all this comes from a range of sources, including the Health Ministry and Te Puni Kokiri/the Maori Development Ministry.

"We apply for funding from whoever is the most relevant," Mr Taylor said.

NToTA started life as Taumata Hauora. It was given its present name by board chairman John Maihi. The name relates to river currents and tides of change.