Anaru has whakapapa to Waikato, Ngāti Whāwhākia, Ngāti Hikairo and China. Born in Auckland, he was raised in Wellington before attending boarding school at Te Aute College. Following school he commenced a trades career in roofing. Over the years he moved into banking and then landscape design before pursuing his passion in health. He attained a Bachelor’s Degree in Sport and Recreation, majoring in physical activity, nutrition and Māori health.
Through the Healthy Families platform, with an emphasis on systems change, innovation and disruption, Anaru saw potential to focus on improving health outcomes for Māori, where Māori are empowered as drivers of change and designing their own futures. He believed following what has always been done, wouldn’t get Māori to their desired destination, instead leaving Māori as followers en route to dominant discourse goals. “As Māori we have to be proactive and shape our own goals, requiring collective courage and appetite to shift paradigms. My passion is to create the appetite, or those tasters. With our indigenous knowledge systems we have a powerful platform from which to grow, operating at the intersection of ancestral knowledge and urban community transformation to respond to the myriad of constantly evolving health challenges,” he adds.
Anaru is inspired by kaumatua, kuia and tohunga who have, through lived experience, gained wisdom and knowledge, and seen some radical change in their lifetime. He says they are crucial to taonga tuku iho, intergenerational knowledge and equity. “Matua Rereata Makiha is a driving force in seeing maramataka realised across the system involving local government, kura, marae and health organisations. He is a visionary and we, like many others, are the enthusiasts all helping to build a healthy Māori eco-system.”
“I am a Māori systems innovator. Through an indigenous lens, my role can be reframed and likened to our ancestor Maui Hono, the super connector, with the ability to navigate, link, influence, support and maintain the trust and confidence among many, with a mindset of Maui Ao; a global warrior, connected with our Pacific brothers and sisters, aware of our unique global point of difference, an advocate and at the forefront of sustainable indigenous development.
“Our Māori team works across the Māori spectrum, with mana whenua iwi as well as the large urban Māori population who now call Auckland home. South Auckland has the highest numbers of Māori across all major cities and it is our role to ensure their needs are represented at the table. We must understand protective factors of culture like te reo Māori, spiritual connection to land, whakapapa and tino rangatiratanga, and use those things to craft solutions to improve health outcomes and help us adapt and thrive in a constantly changing climate and social system.”
“In a Te Ao Māori approach, people and the environment coexist and things (biotic and abiotic) are part of an interconnected system which harmonises tapu, mana and mauri to create ‘balance’. When this system comes under stress or pressure, a shift occurs, resulting in nature along with people moving towards a state of disease and disharmony. With this in mind we look at our indigenous knowledge systems like maramataka. A specific project we are working on alongside The Southern Initiative is the ‘Maramataka in Manukau’ kaupapa which is leveraging the Transform Manukau urban regeneration opportunity to reframe the paradigm around how we connect to our urban green spaces. A defining impact of this would be that Māori are visible driving change and designing futures that benefit the whole ecosystem, not just for Māori, but all peoples and, importantly for the unseen and unheard.
What is your vision for health and wellbeing in South Auckland?
“Our communities are constantly changing. People, policies, programmes, politics, economies, and the weather are all part of a constant state of flux around us. Resilience or the ability to adapt to change is an essential ingredient that needs to be understood and built into community change journeys. We have a lot to observe and learn from the eco-systems in nature, and Māori with their intimate and in-depth connection to these eco-systems are poised to be at the forefront of a regenerative approach contributing to the system that moulds the communities we live, learn, work and play in.”
What is one funny/quirky/interesting thing that no-one knows about you?
“I still listen to 80’s music, and jam it loudly in the car. It’s me that always sets the work cars to classic hits!”