When Haki first joined the Māori Wardens there were kaumātua and kuia that didn’t want Māori Wardens working with the Police.
“They were the leaders of our whānau then and we had to listen to them,” says Haki Tio Matiu Wihongi, North Kaipara Māori Warden.
Haki recalls that NZ Police would be abused by his tipuna. He wanted to change that way of thinking.
“When we are in trouble we don’t ring our tipuna, we ring the Police. At least that’s how it is for me and my people and my whānau in Te Tai Tokerau,” says Haki.
Haki is thankful that NZ Police hung in there throughout those tough times, and remain here for the whānau. He knows that Māori Wardens and NZ Police must work together to improve whānau and community wellbeing.
“We’ve got a really good relationship now, working together, hand in hand, and making a real positive difference in our communities and with whānau.
NZ Police and Te Puni Kōkiri provides resources, funding and training to help Māori Wardens support the many communities they serve.
“NZ Police give us vans and Te Puni Kōkiri gives us putea enabling us Māori Wardens to travel to wherever we need to be to support the community, at hui or events, and to run programmes with rangatahi and with whānau.”
Māori Wardens are an intrinsic part of our communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. They have been supporting whānau for over 150 years at a grassroots level and have well-established relationships that enable them to work closely with whānau, Māori organisations, community groups and government agencies.
“Over the years I’ve spoken at many marae about looking after our rangatahi and about finding ways to get through to them. I feel we can make a difference in their lives.”
Haki has always had a passion for helping rangatahi.
“They are our future.”
Many Māori Warden Groups organise camps in partnership with other organisations to give rangatahi new experiences and to help them connect with other rangatahi.
“The camps we run in Te Tai Tokerau give our local rangatahi new experiences, a chance to make new friends, while learning a bit of history about the rohe they come from.
“It gives us time to have a kōrero with them and to see that they are ok.”
Haki wants all rangatahi to know that if they start to get any bad feelings about trying to do harm, that they can always talk to a Māori Warden, and if they can’t help they will find someone who can.
“Our rangatahi are our future so we need to look after them and guide them.”
Haki admits that it takes a long time to build a relationship with rangatahi.
“Relationships with rangatahi, with whānau and with groups in the community are all based on trust.”
Haki has spent 35 years as a Māori Warden building relationships, like other Māori Wardens have.
“Aroha ki te tangata (For the love of the people) is the Māori Warden motto and we stand by that right across the motu.”
“Māori Wardens are here to help our people on the right path to a better life. We all have a responsibility to lead our people,” says Haki.
In November 2018, Wihongi was awarded a Kaipara Citizens Award for extraordinary commitment to helping others in the community.
In July 2018, Wihongi, on behalf of the NZ Māori Wardens Association, accepted the Hiwa i Te Rangi Award at the Māori Television Matariki Award night for contribution to the community.
In 1998 Wihongi received the ONZM (Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit).