NGA KETE Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust (NKMP) is a Southland success story.
A success in terms of its effective business model, the continually expanding range of services offered to the community, and of the far-reaching positive impact its services have made during the past 20 years, and continue to have in the community.
NKMP chief executive Tracey Wright-Tawha credited its success to her staff.
“I am hugely indebted to the special taonga (treasure) people that choose to work here,” she said.
“We are stronger together. I totally 100% believe in that.”
NKMP was set up in September 2000.
Ms Wright-Tawha said the vision was to develop an holistic health and social service for Maori and those who embraced a Maori service delivery style, something which had been lacking in the region at that time.
She sought permission to set up a charitable trust to affect the health needs of Maori and the wider community, with a focus on mental, spiritual, family and physical health.
“We honour all people.
“You have to be there for all people, that is who I am and that is a reflection of our history here in the deep south.”
Mandated into being by the Oraka Aparima runaka, Ms Wright-Tawha took a leap of faith, left her job, and with no financial backing, set up NKMP as a not-for-profit health and social service provider.
For the first six months, she worked out of a stationery room proffered by Doug Thompson, of Te Puni Koriri.
“It was only big enough to fit a desk and a chair.”
Her first task was to secure funding.
“That was the door-knocking time relationships that have helped sustain us over 20 years.
“Those early years were the genesis years, developing the blueprint.”
Ms Wright-Tawha attributed her drive and determination to see NKMP succeed to the example set by her family had run successful businesses and her parents.
“I would not have done any of it if I had not been raised by great parents who taught me resilience, problem solving and being prepared.”
She also acknowledged her supporters in those early days who shared her dream, saw her vision, offered advice and kept her motivated, supporters like Marcia Te Au Thomson, a Maori health adviser at Southland Hospital.
Ms Te Au Thomson had been providing cultural support and advice to NKMP since its inception, Ms Wright-Tawha said.
“She has been totally dedicated to the journey of Nga Kete, what it stands for and what it represents as a mana whenua Maori provider.”
Ms Te Au Thomson said she was as passionate about the importance of NKMP’s work as she had been in the early days.ther supporters included Dawn Wybrow, a champion of Maori health for 60 years, kaumatua Sue Summerville, Wara Hakopa, who ran a disabled service for Maori, as well as dedicated runaka members/trustees Betty Rickus and Jane Davis.
As it turned out, the appetite was right in Southland in 2000 for a organisation such as NKMP.
NKMP’s first contract was with the Ministry of Health to assist rural communities to access primary and secondary health care services in Invercargill. The service involved transporting about 1800 people a year to medical appointments in Invercargill.
Teina Wilmshurst was taken on as the organisation’s first employee at that time, and she still worked for NKMP some two decades later.
Ms Wilmshurst said the philosophy and values of the agency, and being able to make a difference in people’s lives was what first attracted her to the job and was why she continued to work for Nga Kete.
“In our role as kaitiaki (caretakers or trustees) of this area, we need to ensure that our whanau, clients and patients are welcomed, respected and valued, and feel they belong, and so we can look after them.”
Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust chief executive Tracey Wright-Tawha and then Prime Minister John Key with staff and their families during his visit to the trust in 2015. Sam White (9) is holding the poha (traditional muttonbird container) gift presented to Mr Key.
A mobile nursing service designed to remove barriers to access health services, was the next service established, followed by drug and alcohol counselling, disability work and a stop smoking programme.
NKMP now delivered a wide range of services, from operating a supported youth living home, running Te Waka Tuhona youth programme to reconnect youth with their heritage and culture, and offering addiction and problem gambling counselling, disability support and advocacy, restorative justice, whanau ora and community nursing among others.
Staff provided 75,000 interventions a year through its self-help groups, Southern Institute of Technology student support service and GP visits and follow up appointments.
They had also received 2500 referrals to its addiction counselling service and 3500 referrals to its stop smoking programme.
Staff at NKMP also operated He Puna Waiora Wellness Centre (a low cost GP service).
Ms Wright-Tawha said the GP service, which opened in February 2015, was “the jewel in the crown” for NKMP.
About 600 patients registered with the clinic within the first month. Within 12 months, patient numbers had swelled to 2000. Four years on, the clinic now had about 3500 patients.
The goal of He Puna Waiora Wellness Centre was to provide an holistic health service, incorporating nurses, GPs, massage therapists, self-help groups, health educators, cancer pathway counsellors, and recently an on-site pharmacy.
However, the services offered by the wellness centre were not yet complete.
There were plans to incorporate more mobile nurse visits, a telephone triage service, mental health and addiction support and a pain management clinic, she said.
rom its humble beginnings 20 years ago with one staff member working out of a stationery room with no funding, NKMP now operated from a multi-floor office block, employed 66 staff, had contracts with several government agencies and had an annual turnover of nearly $5 million.
Ms Wright-Tawha said her passion for the work had not waned over the years.
“I’m still here doing what I love and I feel absolutely privileged to be able to do what I do.”
And, despite all that had been achieved during the past 20 years, she was not resting on her laurels.
“I am always looking at how we can continually improve the quality of our delivery.
“There is always much more to do. We are still on a journey and we are not there yet.”
Offering clinical and business management mentoring to other providers was among several new initiatives being developed this year, she said.
“We want to create a vehicle where we can share our learning and experience with others.”
Ms Wright-Tawha said she had a passion for indigenous development.
“We would like to see a model like NKMP add value in countries which needed the support.
“I think we have a product that would resonate with other indigenous cultures, which was transportable and sustainable.”
So what was she most proud of?
“The fact that other people believed enough in the concept to invest in it, people who could see the merits of our work.”