Regional | Investitures

Homeless-helping Te Puea Marae chair honoured

The chair of Te Puea Memorial Marae in Māngere, best known for offering homeless people somewhere to stay,  has been recognised this week for his services to Māori and the community.

Hurimoana Dennis (Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Porou, and Ngāti Kahungunu), received his New Zealand Order of Merit honour today, as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Dennis became Te Puea chair in 2010, and he led a new marae strategy, with a business plan, which returned the marae to financial stability.

His team at Te Puea is now in the middle of upgrading the marae and building more transitional housing, so an additional 25 whānau can be accommodated.

He has been involved in numerous kaupapa including te reo Māori revitalisation, promoting the wellbeing of tamariki, reintegrating prisoners back into the community, as well as feeding and housing whānau in need.

“The homes end up being the easy part but there's a multitude of challenging issues they have, like addictions, family violence, budgets and drivers' licences. It’s incredible but rewarding at the same time,” Dennis says.

'Huge inequity'

Reflecting on his nomination, he says “You put your head down, bum up, and do what you do, but you never expect that someone is thinking of you in this way - it’s a huge honour.”

Talking about his plans for the future, he says he wants to be part of a better service delivery model for Māori, including the amalgamation of services and easier access to funding, advocacy, and information sharing.

“There’s a huge inequity between community providers and the Crown equivalents, including an approximate 30% pay difference, and I want to be a part of changing that to bring back some mana ōrite.”

When it comes to rangatahi, he is concerned about the lack of programmes, funding, and support available to develop the next generation of Māori leaders.

“At the moment it’s reliant on one or two bosses or rangatira to take one or two under their wings, so there needs to be something more concerted,” Dennis says.

Notably, he credits the women that surround him as being crucial to his mahi but laments that wāhine Māori in some leadership roles haven’t been able to reach their full potential.

Dennis is a member of the Kōhanga Reo Trust board, Wānanga Takiura, Taumata Kōrero, and Te Pā. He has also served in the New Zealand Police.