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Whirinaki Bush Wisdom
By Ruth Wynyard

In the Whirinaki bush, Te Whaiti resident, James Carlson gently snaps a Piko Piko from its stem.

The plant, which he jokingly refers to as the 'Maori asparagus', must be snapped at exactly the right place and in the right season if it is to be eaten and enjoyed.

There are several Te Whaiti commentators on the bush walk, each contributing valuable lore to the kete of knowledge about the cyclical nature of the New Zealand bush.

This is not a nature enthusiast group, or a selection of tourists eager to soak up indigenous knowledge to take back home.

The walk is part of a Hui - Tipu Ake - A Leadership Model for Innovative Organisations- and is essentially a business seminar (retreat).


Tipu Ake is based around the interconnections of people, nature and spirituality, so it is fitting that the protected bush should be used by way of explanation.

It was born of the practical wisdom of the Ngati Whare community and the Te Whaiti School Board, shown when threatened with school closure after a scathing Education Review Office (ERO) report.

The school was failed on 21 ERO criteria in 1996, and its six board members responded with the same innovation and ingenuity attributed to the area's famous Tipuna, Toi.

A community marae-style 'live-in' began a process of transformation, which was centred on honest self- reflection.

"We realised that before we could change anything we would have to change ourselves," says principal Genevieve Doherty.

One of the first points of change was in deciding to become entirely 'outcome focused', meaning the removal of barriers to learning for the school's 56 pupils.


Traditional excuses for poor performance, such as high unemployment rates and rural isolation, were discounted and the community became collectively involved in creating change. The objective was clear: "To give our kids the choices that we may have been denied."

Today a check on the Education Review Office website reveals a changed environment:

"Excellent governance and management systems and positive relationships between the principal, board and staff contribute to the success of this school.

The turnaround of the school captured the interest of an ex pupil Peter Goldsbury who is a Project Management Consultant at the Auckland University of Technology He found their radical transformation process seemed to overcome of the limitations of conventional linear management thinking. "Whilst most NZ organizations we were working with were struggling to catch the knowledge wave, here was an organization that seemed to know how to grow it"


The Tipu Ake Lifecycle is the result of many months of discussion and research between Goldsbury, the Te Whaiti school Board of Trustees, local Kaumatua, many participants on AUT Project Management workshops and AUT staff.

The people of Te Whaiti Nui-a-Toi gave it the name Tipu Ake ki te Ora - growing from within, ever upwards towards wellness.

Based on the life cycle of a tree, Tipu Ake, begins with Te kore, the void and works up to Ngahua or the fruits of a tree. Goldsbury believes its strength is its holistic approach which can help revitalise business organizations.

"Their model is cyclical and these people taught me that Te Kore or negative resistance can be channelled into a re-germination process" - "They demonstrate that it is there in the undercurrents, turmoil and chaos that we find the very seeds of innovation and opportunity" he says.

Board members are proud of the schools remarkable turnaround, but were surprised at the outside interest.

"We did not think we were doing anything special - we were just getting on with the job the best way we knew how" said Chairman Chris Eketone, who added that there is no room for idle self-congratulations:


"We have a Maori proverb-' a kumara never calls itself sweet, that's for the eaters to say."

The results of the decile one school speak for themselves. In the five years since the first review, the board has come together to make decisions for the children in a very egalitarian way.

Principal Genevieve Doherty says hui were even held at the local clubrooms rather than the marae or school, so that Kaumatua, teachers and the board did not feel they had to be "leaders" on the issue and could "take off their hats".

"Leadership is not the same as the leader, anyone can have it and it floats back and forth all the time," says Ms Doherty.

By remaining focused on removing barriers for learning, board members and local community were able to put individual differences aside and grow kakano (seeds) for growth.


Some of this growth included, buying a bus - an innovative move to take advantage of development funding provided by the government, and the purchase of laptop computers on lease.
Far beyond just removing barriers, both decisions opened new opportunities.

Ms Doherty says the board realised early on that technology was a solution to the school's isolation.

"Now if we can't afford to go to a museum we just hook up on line," she says.

But as important as the focus on technology, is a grounding in identity. Parents, many of whom learned that to korero Maori in school meant the strap, demanded their children be educated in tikanga and fluent in Te Reo.
As a result, juniors now start with total immersion and migrate to bilingual classes in the senior school.

Up until this year (end of 2001) when the national examination was discontinued, all Te Whaiti students arrived at high school with a top level pass in School Certificate Maori.


Translating this level of achievement into other organisations was the objective of the hui, attended by a diverse selection of innovative New Zealand organisations.

Kaiwhakariti for Te Puni Kokiri Whakatane, Papanui Ruri, was impressed with the efforts of the school board.

"I believe that the initiative that this school has shown has been something off the wall, not inside a square box, and not like a Pakeha system," he says.

One of the key features of the lifecycle is its clear vision of ultimate wellness, or Ora, where the Ngahua (fruits) are plentiful, rather than focussing just on delivering quantifiable outputs. This Kaupapa has its origins in an ancient Maori proverb:

"If we are not gentle with life, the garden within us dies."

The Writer Ruth Wynyard is a 2001 Journalism graduate from AUT. She volunteered her time on the Tipu Ake Communications team and attended the launch Hui at Te Whaiti. She was supported in this by Karen Laugesen AUT Public Relations Graduate and David Somerfield Photographer.

In the knowledge sharing tradition of Toi, the Tipu Ake Lifecycle is in the public domain gifted to the worlds children © 2001 Te Whaiti Nui-a-Toi, In return a koha (gift you can afford based on its value to you) is appreciated to help further voluntary education and community development in the valley and beyond. The full model is downloadable at www.tipuake.org.nz
Tipu Ake has been developed by enthusiastic volunteers without any sponsorship or government funding. Please join us to help promote it further.

Editors wishing to publish this story please contact Peter Goldsbury pgoldsbury@stratex.co.nz. It must be footnoted with the following copyright statement:

Tipu Ake Lifecycle - A leadership model for innovative organisations. (c) 2001/2 Te Whaiti Nui-a-Toi, see www.tipuake.org.nz




1. NEW "Lifelong Learning - Nature's Way" - Tipu Ake as a learning model
2. UPDATE " New Tools For Growing Living Organisations and Communities" Radical tools for program management in a world of complexity and inter-dependence - builds on our paper at PMI Global Forum, Anaheim. Nov 2004
UPDATE Downloadable Tipu Ake Model now includes "The Leadership Tripod" and Mycorrhyzal Fungi Networks - Partnerships below the ground level.
4. PODCASTS Listen to Stranova and Living Systems Thinking interviews - Blog
5. VIDEO: Visit Downloadable Video Libary, interviews, stories, apply Tipu Ake
6. Thanks to those who participated in workshops "Tools for Growing Living Organisations" run in New York, London, Mid Wales UK, Finland and San Francisco during August 2005 click here for report

Helping New Zealanders and the world grow from within
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(c) 2001 onwards Te Whaiti Nui-a-Toi. All intellectual property protected under the provisions of the Treaty of Waitangi 1840 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Adopted by General Assembly 13 Sept 2007) - details www.tewhaiti-nui-a-toi.maori.nz
The Tipu Ake Team thanks AUT for helping incubate this model and in particular the many student teams, staff and other local and international volunteers that have helped it germinate in many places around the world.
Click for details