Ākau: designing futures in Kaikohe



Three extraordinary ladies have taken their design and structure expertise and created a coaching programme for a few of the nation’s most weak rangatahi.

Head north on state freeway one, stopping for a sandwich among the many vibrant and busy structure of Kawakawa. Previous Moerewa’s large AFFCO meatworks, glowering on the sting of city like a taniwha guarding the village. Flip off at blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Ohaeawai and the gently curving roads finally ship you to Kaikohe.

Referred to as ‘the guts of Ngāpuhi’, Kaikohe within the centre of Northland is dwelling to roughly 4000 folks.

Simply off the principle avenue of Broadway, you’ll discover an structure studio with a unprecedented story.

Ākau is a social enterprise, which means shopper charges from business initiatives and funding grants are utilised to create training programmes and technical workshops for youth in Northland. Ana Heremaia (Ngāti Hine) and co-founders Ruby Watson and Felicity Brenchley consider that thriving communities begin with proud and engaged members. However Heremaia’s connections to Kaikohe runs deeper.

An inside architect with worldwide expertise working from London to Melbourne, Heremaia grew up in Christchurch. After her father turned sick in 2012, she returned from London to be together with her mother and father and to assist her mum with the nursing course of. Inside three months, nevertheless, he was gone, and the household determined to take him dwelling.

“My dad whakapapas to up right here in Kaikohe,” says Heremaia, “So when he handed away as a whānau we went on a hīkoi and introduced him up right here to be buried. That was sort of my first reference to Northland.”

Heremaia moved to Melbourne, spending a yr in an architectural agency, quietly discontented as she approached a decade within the trade. Inside a yr tragedy struck once more and her mum fell terminally sick. She returned to New Zealand as soon as extra.

“I had been working within the design and structure trade for about 9 years by that time, and I simply wasn’t utterly comfortable doing that. I felt like one thing was lacking. And I didn’t notably like sitting behind a pc. I needed to be out and assembly folks and to have extra of a goal to my work.

“I used to be speaking to mum whereas she was sick in mattress about what I may do. I stated I wasn’t comfortable and I needed to do one thing with my design expertise that might assist a group. For me it was about connecting with my tradition and my whakapapa but additionally discovering my goal and what I needed to do. She launched me to a buddy of hers who lived up right here.”

A yr after burying her dad on the St Michael’s Anglican Church, website of the historic Ohaeawai Pā, Heremaia returned as soon as extra to bury her mum. This time, she determined to remain for good, deciding on utilizing her expertise in social enterprise.

“Dad had a extremely robust upbringing, so I hadn’t actually skilled any of Northland. So folks had been sort of like, ‘What the heck, why have you ever moved up there?’ Not many individuals are conscious of the New Zealand above Auckland, that’s for positive. And neither was I, I used to be positively this metropolis woman shifting to the nation, so we had no concept what we had been getting ourselves into eh.”

Ruby Watson, an architect and artist raised in Mahurangi, simply north of Warkworth, labored with Heremaia in Melbourne and got here onboard with the challenge nearly immediately.

“Ana had been staying with me in Warkworth, and she or he got here up together with her luggage and her guitar and her fancy metropolis sneakers, and she or he will get off the bus like ‘I’ll simply catch a taxi to the place I’m going to remain’, and I used to be like ‘there’s no taxis in Northland, you’ll be able to’t taxi.’ Positive sufficient she will get off the bus and will get laughed off the road when she asks for the native taxi in Kaikohe.”

“I needed to stroll to the place, nearly bought attacked by rabid canine and simply deserted my belongings midway up the hill cos I used to be so drained,” Heremaia laughs. “However I related with Kaikohe as a result of the issues are actually seen. There are these younger individuals who aren’t engaged in a lot of something, however they’re so inventive and so humorous, so how will you harness that to create one thing constructive? We determined to make use of design.”

Between Could 2014 and January 2015, Ākau ran a pop-up store on the excessive avenue. Regardless that Heremaia had whānau in Kaikohe, the group nonetheless felt like foreigners to an extent, and needed to construct a group connection. However in June of that yr, the primary six-month course was initiated along with NorthTec.

Watson says that whereas each scholar that goes by way of the programme could not change into an architect or designer, the true profit comes by way of the evolution of their pondering.

“We’ve skilled the design course of and it’s actually simply downside fixing, pondering by way of and arising with design outcomes for no matter downside you face.

“We expect if we introduce them to that ability, it’s one thing that may profit them in no matter course they take. It offers them expertise round trying on the world round them in another way. The best way that the world goes with expertise it’s even laborious to evaluate what a job shall be in 5 years’ time, so need to give them the abilities to suppose creatively, but additionally the tangible final result of the design and structure program is the important thing to maintaining them engaged. While you see one thing you’ve been concerned in come to life you’re feeling pleased with your self.”

As a result of cultural empowerment is a prerequisite for pleasure on a group scale, the workshops at Ākau are grounded in kaupapa Māori, and college students work totally on initiatives with functions in te ao Māori. In 2015, college students designed a picket stool primarily based on the form of conventional waka hoe [paddles], devising a technique of meeting which didn’t require glue or nails. The stools had been a success, snapped up by non-public collectors in addition to Sawmill Brewery for a brand new match out.

The waka hoe (paddle) stool at Sawmill Brewery in Matakana. Picture: Ākau

Watson says the success of the waka hoe stool was a double-edged sword and a steep studying curve for the fledgling start-up.

“Felicity, Ana and I had been in a little bit of a rebellious stage the place we had been making an attempt to flee the structure world. We needed to do furnishings or one thing rather less intense than full blown structure, which we’d all change into a bit jaded by. The stool was fantastic in that it was a prototype to check the market and to work with our younger folks. They designed the stool, it offered effectively… however the entire troubles that we had been instructed would occur, sort of did. Individuals who stated they’d purchase it, didn’t. Getting New Zealand-made ply was close to inconceivable, it was a nightmare. We needed native folks to make it however my husband ended up making them as a result of he was higher at it. New Zealand-made furnishings has a really slim revenue margin at greatest. It was an actual palaver to get that proper.

“The positives in fact had been that we bought a number of publicity and the younger folks we labored with had been tremendous stoked on it. They noticed the method of design and dealing laborious for one thing come to fruition. The went to the bar the place their stools had been – that was an enormous success for us. We bought in fancy magazines and issues, that was good. We’ll by no means do one other piece of furnishings although, we’re just a little bit scarred by the method.”

The programme is now impartial and not run out of NorthTec, and because of a Basis North grant designed to assist them discover monetary independence over 5 years, they’ve grown their workers to 9 and readjusted the main focus again to structure. “We discovered you can have big group affect doing a design and structure challenge versus a furnishings piece, if persons are working in their very own group. They’re going to see that for the remainder of their lives, their children and grandkids are going to see it. There’s much more affect in structure than furnishings, in order that’s one other lesson we realized by way of the paddle stool. That was actually invaluable and altered the enterprise mannequin we now have.”

Within the first module of the Ākau ‘Futures’ programme, college students full mini design briefs reminiscent of designing and constructing a bamboo waka, to assist foster a belief atmosphere and whanaungatanga with one another. Pictures: Ākau

One of many huge successes has been Miria marae in neighbouring Waiomio, a tūpuna marae for Ngāpuhi hapū Ngāti Hine, which is now within the constructing consent part. Ākau’s college students lead the design challenge, happening website visits with “the shopper”, assembly with kuia and kaumātua to listen to their tales and histories, after which arising with a design by way of intensive workshopping with the Ākau architects. Watson describes the second she noticed their first sketch: “I keep in mind coming into the workplace and seeing the sketch on the desk and going ‘that is it!’” We couldn’t consider how fantastic the design was. It was one thing we by no means would have give you on our personal. It was so actual and contextual.”

The rangatahi then offered their work on the marae AGM. “The purchasers cherished it and accredited the idea.”

Te Teira Rakete, considered one of 24 whānau dwelling at his Kaikohe dwelling, was the star pupil of the primary Ākau course. A former prisoner, he labored by way of this system, and gained entrance to AUT in Mt Albert. One other, Rekky Alexander, has stayed on because the youth intern at Ākau.

Requested if Heremaia intends to try to retain that expertise, to determine a bigger establishment within the north, she says there’s no want – they arrive again on their very own.

“Folks up right here have a powerful reference to whānau and residential, so even when they do go away to get additional training and a few expertise, there’s that pull that appears to convey them again. We expect it’s superior that folks can exit, go away dwelling – all of us did it – and we got here dwelling once more with new concepts and with expanded minds. I feel that’s a extremely necessary a part of a group rising – bringing new concepts dwelling and grounding them, and your self, once more.”



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