Regional | Te Ururoa Flavell

Te Wānanga o Aotearoa CEO resigns abruptly

No explanation has been made for the abrupt departure of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa chief executive Te Ururoa Flavell.

On March 22, Flavell announced he was resigning as Te Taiurungi (chief executive) of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. He will leave the role on April 30.

It follows the equally abrupt departures of his three predecessors Rongo Wetere, Bentham Ohia and Jim Mather.

However, in a statement, Flavell said his time leading Te Wānanga o Aotearoa had been an honour and a privilege. “I have had the pleasure of working with incredibly passionate, skilled and committed kaimahi, tauira (students) and supporters who are the very heart of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, and who are key to it continuing to do the important mahi it has done for the past 35 years.”

Flavell was appointed chief executive in 2018 and has been a passionate advocate for te reo me ngā tikanga Māori and Mātauranga Māori.

Covid and leadership

Te Wānanga o Aotearoa council chair Bryan Hemi has acknowledged Te Ururoa Flavell’s service as a strong and energetic leader.

Hemi said Flavell’s leadership during the Covid-19 response had been especially appreciated by Te Mana Whakahaere (the council) “and in particular, I would like to acknowledge his focus in continuing to build our strengths in te reo and tikanga Māori,” Hemi said.

“I understand and accept his decision to resign and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.

“We are fortunate to have an incredibly talented and driven range of leaders across Ngā Tumu – our senior leadership team and our organisations.

"And we are grateful that this depth will ensure we maintain our momentum for our organisation as we continue to deliver the essential service we have in meeting the educational and training needs of tauira throughout Aotearoa.”

Deputy chief executive Nepia Winiata will become acting chief executive upon Mr Flavell’s departure.

Te Wānanga o Aotearoa senior cultural advisor Paraone Gloyne said the staff were “shocked to say the least” when they heard of the resignation and they were sad. “There was anger at not knowing why and what’s to come.”

“A lot of us kaimahi have been through a few restructures with our previous CEOs.”

Kaimahi view

Gloyne said Flavell's departure is reminiscent of some of the trials and tribulations the kaimahi and the organisation had been through, so “while we have the kaupapa at the forefront or mission, our vision and our values, there are people out there who are thinking about what’s going to happen tomorrow for the wananga in terms of their livelihood.”

He praised Flavell as a stalwart for te reo Māori. “He’s kaupapa Māori driven and mātauranga-Maori driven.”

Flavell had worked in education for most of his life. One of his initiatives had been asking: What is a wānanga?  “What is our point of difference other than having a Māori name and really for us to think about that, our contribution to mātauranga as an organisation and for te reo Māori.”

“As one of his kaimahi he’s done a fantastic job, marvellous, in the short time he has had. He’s a mover and shaker, and straight up the guts. I like that in a leader and he has been a leader.

We need some more leadership like that not just in Te Wānanga but also in te reo Māori.

Gloyne said he thought the board was doing a good job ”but we need to look at our whanaungatanga, our relationships within the organisation.”

His message for the board: “Come and get to know the kaimahi.”