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Source: Human Rights Commission

Waimirirangi Ormsby believes actions are as important as words. The 26-year-old, of Waikato-Tainui, has foraged deep into her whakapapa to help environmental sustainability resonate more with her people. But for her the key is to live it herself every day.

“I try to walk my talk,” she says. “Because farms have a huge impact on our water ways I’ve just made the choice to stop eating food from them, mainly beef, that is produced by farms, so that I’m not contributing to that continued kino or harm that’s happening to my river.”

The Waikato river is everything to Waimirirangi. Its health is representative of her health, the health of her whānau and community, and of the Earth itself.

“As Māori we are inherently connected to the land, to our natural surroundings and our natural ecosystems” says Waimirirangi, who describes herself as a pro-activist rather than an activist. She is unlikely to lead a protest march or gather signatures on a petition. Instead she reminds Māori of the values embedded in their indigenous heritage.

“The best way to put it from my Māori point of view, is that I try to live in a way that is acknowledging and uplifting my pepeha. The pepeha is the geographical connection, and the most predominant geographical connection that you pay homage to when you stand up and introduce yourself as Māori is your waterways, your mountains, and your meeting house – your marae. And for us here in Waikato that is very much part of our identity.”

Waimirirangi has always cherished her culture, a passion ignited when enrolled in kohanga reo by her mother in Whangārei. She circled back to this in year 10, when living back in the Waikato with her father, and independently chose to return to full Māori immersion. She attended Ngā Taiātea Wharekura until the end of high school, and says te reo became vital to her identity.

“The Māori language is the most valuable thing in my life, without my language there is no way that I could express my emotions, my desires and my passions as I travel my path and live my life, this is the value of the Māori language to me personally.”

It’s her indigenous culture which now drives Waimirirangi’s work. Together with her husband she created Pipiri Ki A Papatūānuku, which encourages a month of passive environmental action every year. People agree to a period of zero waste, a vegan or dairy-free diet, they avoid industrially-produced food, begin composting or recycling and minimising plastic waste, or anything else they feel they can commit to.

“It’s kind of similar to plastic-free July, but it’s more from our Māori world view. That’s run every June for the last 3 years, and I think every year there’s around about 2,500 people that sign up. And from that we’ve been able to see where our people are, and it’s helped to encourage and prompt other organisations as well, Māori and non- Māori, who approach us for services to help them with their environmental responsiveness plans.”

Now she runs Amio, a company dedicated to promoting a circular economy – a system which benefits everyone while reducing waste, and is rooted in Māori practices which are often forgotten.

“[The] main thing is to remind our country that indigenous people have been living the circular economy for generations, but it’s just reinstating those circular economy ways of living in a modern society and seeing if we can be more reliant on ourselves as a country and as a community.”

Waimirirangi says they try to link industries or companies with less fortunate Māori communities, and focus on several areas, from plastics and textiles to soil, metal and technology.

“We’ve just run our first pilot for Amio tech….that was working with a refurbishing and recycling company in Auckland, and partnering them up with a school in Te Kūiti who needed chrome books to help with their distance-learning post-Covid lockdown.”

Longer term, she has much grander ambitions for the recognition of traditional ways.

“My far kind of vision for the future is, to be honest, one or two generations from now to have indigenous people leading the way and having indigenous knowledge systems be implemented into constitution, into law and policy, into the way that we kind of live our lives, just for everybody.”

And personally too, Waimirirangi is clear about where she’s going.

“Taipapa is what we call it. My vision for my closer future is to live sustainably, live off the grid, have a big garden, be in a position where I feel comfortable to have kids, and keep doing the work that I’m doing, and hopefully grow it and just be proud of what we’ve created and make more impact.”


E whakapono ana a Waimirirangi Ormsby mā te mahi ka kite i te pono a te tangata. E 26 tau te pakeke o tēnei wahine o Waikato, kua āta akohia tana whakapapa kia hua whānui ai te kaupapa o te oranga o te taiao ki tana iwi. Engari māna, māna anō e whakatinana i ana mahi o ia rā.  

“Ka hīkoia e au aku kōrero,” hei tāna. “E pākia ana ngā awa e ngā pāru, nō reira kua mutu taku kai i ngā kai o reira, otirā te mīti kau i ahu mai i ngā pāmu, kia kaua aku mahi e patu tonu, kei kinohia tonu te awa.” 

He mea nui rawa atu te awa o Waikato ki a Waimirirangi. Kei te hāngai te oranga o te awa ki tana oranga, otirā ki te oranga o tana whānau, te hapori me Papatūānuku tonu.  

“He hononga anō tō te Māori ki te whenua, ki te taiao me ngā oranga māori” tā Waimirirangi, e kīia ana e ia he wahine whakatupu kaupapa, ehake i te kaiporotēhe. Ehake i te mea māna e ārahi i ngā hīkoi porotēhe, e kohi tohu rānei ki runga pētihana. Ko tāna kē, he whakamōhio ki a Ngāi Māori  ngā tikanga kei roto i ngā whakapapa taketake.   

“Kia Māori ake taku whakamārama i taku tirohanga, ka whakamātau au ki te hiki i taku pepeha. Ko te pepeha te hononga ki te whenua, otirā ko te tino mea e kōrerotia ana i tō whakapuaki Māori i a koe, ko ngō awa, ko ngō maunga me tō wharenui – tō marae. He mea nui rawa atu ēnei mō mātou kei roto o Waikato nei. “ 

Kua roa a Waimirirangi e aroha ana ki tana ahurea, i ngākaunui ai hoki i tana haerenga ki te kōhanga reo i tana whaea i Whangārei. Ka hoki whēnei mai anō ia i tana tau tekau i te kura, kei Waikato ia e noho ana i tana matua, ka whakataungia e ia kia hoki ia ki te kura rumaki. Ka uru ki te Kura o Ngā Taiātea kia mutu tana haikura, ka meatia he mea nui rawa atu te reo ki tana tuakiritanga.  

“Ko te reo Māori te tino taonga o taku ao, ki te kore taku reo kua kore e āhei taku whakaatu i aku kare ā-roto, i aku hiahia me tāku e ngākaunui ana i a au e haere ana i taku ara i taku oranga, koianei te uara of te reo Māori ki ahau ake.”  

Ko te kaupapa o ngā mahi a Waimirirangi, ko tana ahurea taketake. Nā rāua ko tana tāne a ‘Pipiri ki a Papatūānuku,’ e aki ana i te iwi kia arohia a Papatūānuku mō tētehi marama i ia tau. Ka whakaaetia kia kaua e mahi para, kia kai mītikore, kararehe kore rānei, kāore e kai i ngā kai i hangā wheketere nei, ka tīmata te whakahoki i ngā toenga kai ki te whenua, ka mahi hangarua, ka iti haere te hoko kirihou, me ngā kaupapa whērā e āhei ana rātou.

“He whēnei tēnei i te Hōngongoi Kirihou kore, engari kei te whai i tā te ao Māori. Kua mahia i te Pipiri i roto i ngā tau e toru nei, kei te āhua pea o te 2,500 ngā tāngata i rēhita. I reira mātou ka kite e pēwhea ana ngō tāua iwi, kia āta akiakitia hoki ētehi atu rōpū ki te tautoko mai, Māori mai, Pākehā mai, e toro mai ana ki a mātou mō ngā mātou ratonga kia tika ai ā rātou rautaki awhi i te taiao.” 

E ārahi ana ia i a Amio ināianei, he kamupene whakatupu i te ohanga āmiomio – tētehi ara e whaihua ai ngā iwi katoa nō te mea ka whakaitingia ngā para, ā, i tupu mai i ngā mahinga Māori kua roa e warewaretia ana.   

“Ko te mea nui hei mahara ake, kua roa ngā iwi taketake e noho ana ki raro i ngā ohanga āmiomio, mai anō, mai anō, ā, e whakahokia mai ana te ohanga āmiomio i roto i te ao hou, kia hoki anō tō tātou oranga ki ō tātou ringa ake i te motu katoa, i nga hapori.”   

Ka whakamātau a Waimirirangi ki te hono i ngā kamupene kei ngā hapori Māori rawakore, e whia ngā wāhi hei aro, pēnei i ngā kirihou, ngā pūeru, te oneone, ngā rino me ngā hangarau.  

“Kātahi anō ka mutu tā mātou tauira mō Amio Tech … i mahi i tētehi kamupene hangarua i Tāmaki Makaurau, kua hono rātou ki tētehi kura i Te Kūiti kia whiwhi puka rorohiko rātou e pāi ai ngā rātou akoranga matara, mutu ana te noho mohoao mō COVID.”  

Haere ake nei, he nui ana moemoeā mo te whakahokinga mai i ngā tikanga o mua.  

“Ko taku kitenga roa, kia pono au, kia kotahi, kia rua whakatupuranga rānei, kei te ārahia tātou e ngā tāngata whenua, e kuhu ana ngā tikanga taketake ki ngā ture kāwanatanga, ki ngā ture me ngā kaupapahere, ki ngā tikanga o ngō tātou oranga, mō tātou katoa.” 

Mō Waimirirangi hoki, e mārama ana tana ara.  

“E karangahia ana e mātou te Taipapa. Ko taku whakakitenga mō āpōpō ake nei, kia whai oranga tonutanga tātou, kia noho motuhake au, kia nui taku kāri, kia pēnei taku noho, ka whiwhi tamariki, ka mahia tonuhia e au ngā mahi e mahia ana e au, me taku tūmanako kia tupu tonu, kia ora anō taku ngākau ki ngā mahi ka oti i a mātou me ngā pānga nui tonu.  

MIL OSI