Education / People
26 Oct 2023

Congrats Kaniwa Kupenga-Tamarama!

Named one of the Te Rauora 100 Maori Leaders in 2023

Ko Hikurangi te maunga

Ko Waiapu, Mata me Makatote nga awa

Ko Te Aitanga a Mate, Te Whanau a Rakairoa me Te Whanau a Ruataupare nga hapu

Ko Ngati Porou te iwi

“Ina ka ora te wahine, Ka ora te hapu, Ka ora te whenua.”

Kaniwa Kupenga-Tamarama is a Ngati Porou Mama, Midwife and leader within Ngati Porou Oranga navigating the waters of the successful Kaupapa Maori Mama and Pepi Service “Nati Pepi.” Recently, Kaniwa was named one of the top 100 Maori Leaders for Te Rauora 2023. We got to sneak in and have a korero with her about her mahi and passion for her people!

How does it feel to be named one of the Te Rauora 100 Maori leaders?

Daunting! *Laughs. Being named alongside heavyweights in Maori Health like Dr Mason Durie and Mike King, I thought to myself ‘How did you find me?’

But truly, it is a big privilege. It is also heartwarming that our mahi with Nati Pepi is being recognized and in a wider sense, the mahi of Ngati Porou Oranga as a whole.

What is the “Te Rau Ora 100 Maori Leaders?”

I think it is a tribute to those who are carving new paths within hauora and what that means for whanau maori. It’s also an acknowledgement of mana, not only to the individual but their wider whanau, hapu and iwi.

Tell us about Nati Pepi?

Nati Pepi is the moemoea of our collective aunties Rose Kahaki, Frances King and Agnes Walker. It is supported by Koka Jo, Papa Tuta Haereroa and Koka Huti Puketapu Watson, Aunty Rhonda Tibble and many others.

Nati Pepi is a Kaupapa Maori Mama and Pepi Service. It is a blend of clinical science and Matauranga NGATI POROU. Uncle Selwyn made sure we made it specifically Ngati Porou.

It started as a pilot project through the Maori Health Innovation Service and since has expanded. We wanted to get serious about the longevity of Nati Pepi. Then the contract was awarded. We thought “obviously our tipuna want this.”

With the restructure of Ngati Porou Oranga, we are now under Huti Puketapu Watson at Population Health she is one of our biggest supporters. Beieves in our mahi. Inspires and re-energizes us. Our problems are never too big.

What is current your role?

Clinical Lead – Nati Pepi

I am responsible for overseeing the operation of the service. I am also a qualified midwife and have been working as a midwife for 12 years.

In June 2017 I attended the International Confederation of Midwives in Toronto. Straight afterward my Papa Anaru passed. These events inspired me to get my moko kauae and go home to work in my own tribal territory with my own iwi. I still draw upon my moko kauae for strength in my journey.

With Nati Pepi we have hubs in Kaiti, Uawa, Te Puia Springs, Ruatorea and Te Araroa. So there is me overseeing the operation of the service, then we have our Niwareka who do one on one support with whanau helping them to set and achieve goals. Housing, Kai Sovereignty (Hunting, Diving, Maara Kai etc) and also healthy pregnancies and healthy whanau. We have 2 Midwives, 3 Well Child Nurses and I am so excited to say we have two Rongoa Maori Practitioners joining us soon. A weaver, mirimiri and Rongoa rakau.

Our team is growing. I am so excited to have staff throughout the East Coast. No more one person for Gisborne and One for the Coast. We need that one on one opportunity to grow intimate connections with mama, pepi and whanau. It’s even better that we are all connected and whakapapa to the coast.

It is really important that we nurture our mamas as much as possible to have healthy, safe births on time and also support them to put their bodies back together following birth. Manaaki, tiaki te whare tangata. We wrap around and care for our wahine and whanau. We work with many of the most vulnerable whanau in the Tairawhiti. It’s about strengthening the village and strengthening connections. If our wahine are strong, their whanau are strong, our land will be strong and we are all strong.

If you would like more information or to get in contact with the Nati Pepi Programme:

Contact Kaniwa directly on

022 124 3209