Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks has taken two young people under his wing as part of the Tuia programme.
Councillors were introduced to Carrie Clifford, of Waikaka, and Matu-Taera Coleman-Clarke, of Mataura, at the local body’s meeting on Tuesday night.
The programme originated from the Mayor’s Taskforce for Jobs.
Mr Hicks has been keen to take part in the programme for several years, but had not been successful in identifying a suitable young person who was keen to commit to it.
Mr Hicks said he had discussed the programme with the Hokonui Runanga to gauge how to go about finding candidates.
“They put their feelers out,” Mr Hicks said.
Two exceptional candidates were found.
Both were interviewed and originally only one was to have been chosen for the programme, he said.
But the decision was decided to take on the two candidates.
“I felt the quality of both was suitable and [they] would be able to work well together,” he said.
The programme would help mayors and councillors understand the iwi world better.
It was hoped to involve Mr Coleman-Clarke and Miss Clifford in the council’s citizenship ceremonies.
Mr Hicks said it had yet to be decided how that would happen.
Two workshops had already been held and Mr Hicks and his wife Robyn attended one in Christchurch.
The programme started when a need was identified to foster the development of future Maori leaders.
In all, 43 mayors throughout the country have participated since the programme started in 2011, and many of those participate annually.
There are informal and formal meetings on a regular basis to encourage the development of the young person as a local leader.
Mr Hicks said he also gained insight into cultural values and experiences and intergenerational values.
The Tuia programme involved selected young people attending a series of four workshops throughout the 12-month programme, and undertaking a community service project to practise new strategies and develop leadership, Mr Hicks said.
He said the programme was a good opportunity for young people and for himself.
Believes cultural identity crucial
One of the two young people chosen to take part in the Tuia programme is Carrie Clifford, of Waikaka.
The 24-year-old is of Ngai Tahu, Kati Mamoe and Waitaha descent.
Miss Clifford is passionate about positive mental health and wellbeing, community and Te Ao Maori.
She believed a strong cultural identity was an important foundation for positive mental health and a strong sense of belonging.
On returning from Wellington to live in the South, a friend pointed out an advertisement asking for candidates for the programme.
She and her friend were keen to see the town embrace Maori culture and the benefits that provided.
Miss Clifford’s academic background is in psychology and Maori studies.
She said she was training to become a clinical psychologist through Victoria University, and hoped to work with children and whanau.
She is also a PhD candidate, researching traditional Maori approaches to mental health and wellbeing – specifically, the use of purakau (Maori stories, myths, legends) in clinical health settings and how it can help children better conceptualise the difficulties they are facing.
Miss Clifford is passionate about Te Reo Maori, which she is learning through Te Wananga o Aotearoa.
She sits on the New Zealand Institute of Clinical Psychology board as the student bicultural representative.
Guided by his grandmother
Matu-Taera Coleman-Clarke thanks his grandmother Ngaroturi Coleman for instilling Maori values, language and knowledge in his early life.
The 23-year-old, who was brought up in Mataura, is thankful for the opportunities that will come with taking part in the Tuia programme, and for the family values he gained as a child.
“It was one of the best upbringings I could have had,” Mr Coleman-Clarke said.
He was immersed in the Maori culture and language from a young age, thanks to his grandmother.
He said his grandmother’s guidance and teachings had carved him into the man he was today.
Mr Coleman-Clarke was keen to pass on his knowledge to others and was involved in teaching kapa haka at several schools in the area.
“My passion is kapa haka, the Maori language and youth in Gore,” he said.
He believed the opportunity to take part in the programme was too good to miss.
“I thought I’d give it a shot,” he said.