Regional | Health

Māui Barbers in Rotorua open for fades and safe space for men’s health

The Māui Barbers boys, hard at work offering fades and a supportive ear.

For 12 years Wharepapa Reuben from Te Teko has been working at Tasman Mill in Kawerau. He has finally achieved one of his childhood dreams of opening his own Barber Shop.

Now, that dream has been achieved in the heart of Rotorua and is called Māui Barbers.

“We are excited it has been a long time coming with the planning and opening of Māui Barbers”, said an ecstatic Reuben.

Not only is Māui Barbers a place for haircuts, but Wharepapa has also created it as a safe space for men to speak openly and to be a place of support for men’s health and well-being, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Kaleo Houghton from Rotorua is no stranger to the shop and has been enjoying opening up to the boys after growing a trusting and respectful relationship with them, it’s been good for his well-being and confidence.

“Just being able to come to get a fade and talk to the brothers to have a good talk and get good energy from the brothers it helps set the mood and will set good energy for the day as well, it is what I need”, Houghton said.

There are four Barbers here who are from different parts of the world, Aotearoa, Samoa, India, and the Philippines.

The multi-cultural team behind Māui Barbers.

Tikanga Māori is an important part of the business’s DNA, opening each morning with karakia and encouraging each other to kōrero in their native tongue and boast in their own cultures as each haircutting station proudly flies their home flags.

When asked about the name of the shop, Founder and Owner Wharepapa Reuben spoke highly of his tupuna Māui as an example to him and his team.

“He set the mark for us to excel for brilliance in all that we do from cutting hair to being great role models to our rangatahi in the community Māui is the man”, he said.

Statistics show the number of suspected self-inflicted deaths for Māori males is nearly double the rate for non-Māori males and amongst male Māori youth it is at its highest, causing Wharepapa to reach out to this generation in difficult times.

Māui Barber Jay Lesa is from Samoa and has been supporting community events with his mastery of barber skills for many years and spoke about getting out there and supporting mental health, suicide awareness, fighting meth campaigns, and giving rangatahi a good start in life.

“To help our rangatahi is what I am passionate about,” said Lesa.

Māui Barbers is located in the heart of Rotorua.

They also offer haircuts in Youth Facilities for those fallen through the cracks and often go to schools.

“We know the poverty our whānau face and we just want to raise their spirits with a free haircut”, Reuben said.

Today Pesini Tavake from Maatua Whāngai Rotorua visited Māui Barbers to introduce one of his youth to the industry and to talk about getting him on the new and exciting prospects of a Barber Academy soon to be opened by Reuben and the team.

“There are a lot of rangatahi out there that are enjoying barbering and they want to explore it. There just aren’t enough academies out there for these rangatahi.

“I am grateful that Māui has opened arms out to everyone extending to them there is going to be an academy here and we are going to be signing up a couple of our rangatahi to join”, Tavake said.

The Barber Academy is hoping to launch in July.