Rongoānuku Blossoms as new Ngāti Awa Pākihi

Pākihi Stories: Rongānuku

Rongoānuku Blossoms as new Ngāti Awa Pākihi

Anyone who has visited the Nuku homestead on Brabant Street in Whakatāne over the past six decades will know the origin story of Rongoānuku.

A large section, the house and land provided a home for Dave and Hilda Nuku that sustained their 13 children and continues to be an ūkaipo for their uri. In the garden, even today, are the reminders of their legacy – a vegetable garden, pā harakeke and plants to cure numerous ailments.

And it was here in the garden where the first seeds were planted that would eventually blossom into Rongoānuku.

A new Ngāti Awa business, prioritising selfcare and offering contemporary rongoa products that have been designed to make it easy to incorporate into modern lifestyles, Rongoaānuku is owned by Ani Nuku – a daughter of Dave and Hilda.

With whakapapa to the hapū of Ngāti Rangataua, Ani is a proud Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Pūkeko wahine and says the business is a manifestation of her desire to create economic flexibility and freedom in her own way.

“I started Rongoānuku because I’ve always resonated with traditional healing and herbal remedies,” she says. “Growing up I wasn’t a fan of my Mum’s traditional concoctions, I knew rongoā was good for me but struggled to get it down. After several years of experimenting, I finally created something I felt was good enough to market.”

Ani launched Rongoānuku online in April this year. She says during her time of cultivating her business idea, she studied rongoā in Ōpōtiki through Te Wānanga o Aotearoa to help bring it to fruition and graduated in May of this year.

“In December 2022, I finished working in a social services role and made the big decision to focus on launching Rongoānuku. It has been a huge learning curve finding suppliers, packaging, legal requirements and learning to set up a website and online store while balancing home life, but the challenges have been worthwhile.”

The first collection to be released was Rongoā Latte, a tasty blend of nutrient superfoods combined with the benefits of rongoā, which have been blessed and blended in Whakatāne.

She says her focus now is to grow and promote Rongoānuku.

“A goal is to expand the availability of our products by partnering with aligned stockists, thereby making rongoā more accessible to those who seek it. I am currently working on expanding our product line and hope to have new offerings available shortly.

“In the future, I envision having a dedicated space where we can craft a unique ceremonial experience by combining rongoa and our own indigenous practices, offering our own version of a cacao ceremony.”

Through Rongoānuku, Ani has become the latest member to join the Ngāti Awa Pākihi register, which provides support for businesses owned by those from within iwi.

For more information or to place orders, the Rongoānuku website can be found at: Otherwise, if you want to register your business as a Ngāti Awa Pākihi then you can contact Taihuiranga (PMO) Engagement Officer Courtney Reneti at

Pākihi – RIR Advanced: Ngāti Awa Doing it for Ourselves

Pakihi Stories: RIR Advanced

Pākihi – RIR Advanced: Ngāti Awa Doing it for Ourselves

“We can do it for ourselves!”

It is this belief that has driven Rachel Field to start a new job, create a business and launch a training programme for Ministry of Social Development in just over six months.

A mother of two, who affiliates to Ngāti Hāmua and Te Pahipoto, Rachel established RIR Advancement to support those who are wanting to gain employment by providing training for workplace skills.

Rachel spent more than a decade at the Department of Corrections where she started as an administrator, moved into supporting the development of life skills before finally working to assist people with their employment goals.

She said she enjoyed helping people to build better futures.

“I worked for Corrections for 13 years and my last role was employment and training. I did that in Eastern Bay during my final six years at Corrections.

“I went through a whole lot of different roles during my 13 years at Corrections starting as an administrator, before becoming a Work and Living Skills coordinator where provided support, including finding courses for our people to do such as parenting, anger management and suicide prevent. After that, I moved into employment training and the contribution that made within the Eastern Bay.

“I really loved that space but it was just time for a change.”

Rachel said she started a new role at TOI EDA as a contractor but had already put the wheels of a new business idea into motion. 

“Currently I am working at Toi EDA as a contractor. I started in February undertaking a 20-hour a week contract in the workforce development portfolio. I’ve learnt so much in the space and value the guidance of Toi EDA Chief Executive Donna Perese.

“Just before leaving Corrections, I started going through the process with Ministry of Social Development because I noticed they needed more suppliers to support people into employment.”

Rachel said she noticed many of those who were operating in the employment training space in the Eastern Bay were large companies from outside the rohe.

“I looked at some of the large companies that come and deliver these contracts and often they get Māori trainers just to get to them in the door. So, I thought why can’t we do it for ourselves?

“I have solid relationships, especially with trainers in the area, and I thought I could use them to support what I wanted to do because they are local. While they are not Māori, they are local, and the eventual goal is to have our own providing these services.

“I want to be local driven with our own local providers.”

After inquiring with the Ministry for Social Development about the opportunity, it was a quick turnaround for Rachel and her new business – RIR Advanced. She rung the ministry in October 2022, had a Zoom with them later in the year and by January they were telling her she could have the contract if she could complete the requirements by the end of the financial year.

Rachel said she was down for the challenge and worked to get her first intake of tauira. She launched the intake in March with a pōhiri at Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa and commenced the first four-month training programme.

Along with providing training for tauira to gain their wheels, tracks and rollers as well as forklift, class 2 and class 4 licences plus Site Safe accreditation, RIR Advanced also supported tauira with resume writing, interview tactics and other soft skills.

Rachel said following intakes would be offered later in the year. Anyone who wants to join an intake must have a full drivers’ licence and be able to commit the required time to complete the program. However, in return, Rachel said she was committed to finding tauira employment and a career pathway by the end of the period.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa Manahautū Reuben Araroa said supporting the capability uplift of Ngāti Awa owned businesses supported by our Te Ara Mahi team created a strategic triad social benefit.

“Te Ara Mahi is a Rūnanga-led Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment funded project, which also aimed at supporting Ngāti Awa whanau to find employment. However, most of our employment placements are with mainstream businesses owned predominantly by non-Māori. The triad benefit referred to is when we can find tauira employment within a Ngāti Awa business that would then strengthen our economic capabilities as an iwi collective longer term.

“I have a strong view that Whakatāne is the next biggest opportunity for commercial development over the next 10 to 20 years. This is signalled by the level of financial interest and investment across the Eastern Bay of Plenty. Therefore, now is the time to start preparing our people for those opportunities not only to gain employment but to encourage and support business ownership and entrepreneurialism.”