Project Moturoa – “the best thing I’ve ever done”

Department of Conservation —  10/02/2020

School just wasn’t working for 17-year old Reann, but she was prepared to give a 10-month course for young Māori a go.

Graduating alongside seven other students last November, she said it’s the best thing she’s ever done, giving her the confidence and enthusiasm to see what she wants to do with her life and giving her a pathway to get there.

Reann was exactly the person the Moturoa Project was designed for.

The NCEA Level 4 programme, with the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology delivering the technical skills, was made up of conservation content but with a significant difference: Te Ao Māori was woven throughout, with tikanga me ngā uara (protocol and principles) fundamental to all delivery. The Moturoa project was designed specifically with rangatahi in mind, acknowledging that they are a critical component of future capability and capacity and succession planning for iwi. 

The content included culturally safe practices in management of archaeological sites, wāhi tapu (sacred places), urupā (burial grounds) and other taonga (treasures). 

The participants were also shown how to maintain and manage important ecosystems: harakeke/flax wetlands – which provide a sustainable source of materials for rāranga (weaving); restoration of māhinga kai (food gathering sites) to a healthy state; and revitalisation of medicinal species to a sustainable state that allows harvesting for rongoā use. 


The students were also hosted at marae in the rohe during the course, where they not only put their new skills to work but also had the opportunity to learn the whakapapa and history of the marae and affiliated iwi. 

Reann said it was good to be learning in the Māori world. “We all came from different iwi but most of us had mutual connections,” she said. “From here, I’d like to work for DOC, get more qualified and my end goal will be to work with iwi.”

Programme Coordinator Pene Geiger says she loves the vision and potential of the Moturoa Project. “My occupation is a DOC Ranger – so coming into the classroom was a big shift for me. But I love teaching the next kaitiaki about conservation and the environment. To me, we should all be kaitiaki looking after our environment and our families. I love this programme. I am really proud of what we have achieved in our first year. But, we really need this learning and the progress of our students to translate into mahi opportunities for these rangatahi,” she said.

Reann is now working for Kono, a family-owned Māori food and artisan producer of award-winning wine, cider, seafood, fruit and natural fruit bars.

Reann Hippolite-Elkington, Course Coordinator Pene Gieger and Noela McGregor

The 10-month long NCEA Level 4 Programme, was launched last February, supported by local and central government agencies and endorsed by the eight iwi in Te Tau Ihu.

The Moturoa Project will be running again in 2020 and applications are currently open — apply now.

Project Moturoa Tauira/Project Moturoa Graduates 2019: