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Meet our Staff - Keri Wanoa

Keri Wanoa - Manutaki Whai Hua Maori
Keri Wanoa - Manutaki Whai Hua Maori

Keri Wanoa is a champion for positive change in Maori communities throughout Taranaki.

In her new role as Manutaki Whai Hua Maori – Maori Partnerships & Outcomes Leader for the TSB Community Trust, she is well-placed to support organisations reach their goals.

“I have normally been on the community side, working in organisations and charitable trusts,” says Keri, who is of Ngati Porou descent, but grew up in Westport. She has been living in Taranaki for over 15 years.

Now on the side of the funder, her position has changed. 

“It’s really to be a champion of positive change and work in partnership together to empower our communities.”

As a mother of three teenagers, her background is strongly rooted in the Maori immersion education sector for both early childhood through to wharekura (secondary school). She has been part of Te Pou Tiringa (governance body) of Te Kopae Piripono and a board member of Te Pihipihinga Kakano Mai i Rangiatea, which she is still involved in.

She has also worked as Trust Manager of Te Reo o Taranaki Charitable Trust.

These bring her to the newly created trust role, which involves building meaningful relationships with the Iwi of Taranaki and the Taranaki Maori community.

“It’s about engaging with communities and helping support them to meet their aspirations and making those connections through strategic partnerships and innovative philanthropy.”

To the new job, she brings a background in financial management and administration, communication skills and a strong creative streak.

Another thread to Keri’s cloth is fashion and textile design. She and husband Hemi Sundgren, of Te Atiawa, have had their own design consultancy, WHIRI, and Keri and sister Brooke Strang founded label Wanoa Four, which launched at New Zealand Fashion Week two years ago.

“There’s a lot going on within our Taranaki Maori community. It is full of talented committed people with big aspirations, but resources are always hard and if you are a charitable trust or community organisation, to be reliant on crown or grant funding is really difficult,” she says.

She knows first-hand that many of these groups, especially in the immersion education sector, have yet to seek support from the trust. This is an area she regards as hugely important, because “this age old industrial system is not working in education and we need to be more innovative”.

“It’s hugely exciting to be working with the TSB Community Trust, to help realise the Trust’s vision and to help effect positive change on the ground is something I’m extremely passionate about.

There’s lots of potential. Everybody has something to offer, it’s about being able to recognise and value those strengths and work together to ensure Taranaki whånau are thriving across generations.”

The ultimate outcome would be to create partnerships with our iwi of Taranaki. “Governance and Leadership are strong, strategic visions are strong and they are doing some really cool and great things. If we can work together then nothing is impossible.”