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Our story

Our story

Established in 2000, the Māori Literature Trust – Te Waka Taki Kōrero has been fostering new and emerging Māori writers, transforming the literary landscape of Aotearoa, nurturing Māori voices, with a story to tell.

For more than 20 years we have developed writers who have gone on to have successful careers as authors, producing award-winning stories.

To transform the literary landscape of our nation, we recognise that we cannot do this alone. Enlisting support from writers, universities, business, iwi, government along with our core funders and delivery partners to make our vision a reality is essential. Notably, collaboration is a strategic priority for the future.

The Trust’s programme of work is comprised of two key workstreams – Pikihuia – a short-story writing competition to attract new and emerging talent and Te Papa Tupu – a writers incubator where over six months talented individuals, matched with mentors work on their manuscripts, creating a work ready for publication.

The Trust is governed by trustees active in the Literary, Research, Academic and Publishing sectors – meeting four times per year to provide strategic guidance on the Trust’s programme of work. Under the leadership of Robyn Bargh (as Chair), the vision for the Trust is - E tuhi, taki mai i te ao Māori ki te ao whānui | Taking Māori voices to the world.


E tuhi, taki mai i te ao Māori ki te ao whānui

Taking Māori voices to the world


We foster and promote Māori writers


Tikanga Māori
We are always guided by our own cultural values, tikanga Māori and mātauranga Māori. We are open to new ideas and innovation – building on the traditions of our tūpuna.

Tū Mai
We encourage Māori writers to stand tall as Māori. We acknowledge that it takes courage to share a story. We stand beside and advocate for Māori writers.

We seek to grow Māori writers’ skills, confidence and opportunities. We actively promote Māori writers.

We create opportunities to strengthen the collective of Māori writers and we nurture relationships with collaborators to build impact.

Tino Rangatiratanga
We seek independence and freedom to amplify Māori voices.

Our trustees

Robyn Bargh


Robyn Rangihuia Bargh founded Huia Publishers in 1991 with a vision of increasing the Māori voice in New Zealand literature. She retired from management of the company in 2014 but has continued her involvement with the company. In her role as Chair of the Māori Literature Trust, Robyn has continued to support the development of Māori writers. Her work has been recognised with a number of prestigious awards including the Women in Publishing New Venture Award (1994), the Te Waka Toi Te Tohu Toi Kē Award (2006) and the Book Industry Lifetime Achievement Award (2018), and she was made a Companion of the Order of New Zealand in the New Year Honours List 2012. Robyn is also Chair of Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Kea Ngāti Tuarā and a trustee of Te Pūmautanga o Te Arawa.


Sir Hirini Moko Mead


Sir Hirini Moko Mead is a prominent Māori writer and commentator. Author of over 70 books, papers and articles, he was foundation professor of Māori Studies at Victoria University and was instrumental in establishing Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi in Whakatāne. A scholar of rare expertise in Māori language and culture, Hirini was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2007 for his services to Māori and to education. This was upgraded to a knighthood in 2009.


Whiti Hereaka


Whiti Hereaka is an award-winning novelist and playwright of Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa, Ngāti Whakaue, Tuhourangi, Ngāti Tumatawera, Tainui and Pākehā descent, based in Wellington. She holds a Masters in Creative Writing (Scriptwriting) from the International Institute of Modern Letters.

She is the author of four novels: The Graphologist’s Apprentice, and the award-winning YA novels Bugs, Legacy and Kurangaituku. Legacy won the New Zealand Children’s and Young Adult Book Award for YA fiction in 2019 and Kurangaituku was awarded the 2022 Jann Medlicott Acorn Award for fiction in the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and was long-listed for the Dublin Literary Award 2023.

She is also co-editor, with Witi Ihimaera, of an anthology of Māori myths — Pūrākau — published in 2019. She has had short stories published in Room to Write, A Kind of Shelter, Whakaruru-taha, Te Awa o Kupu and Hiwa, Contemporary Māori Short Stories.


Dr Mike Ross

Ngāti Hauā

Mike is a lecturer at Te Kawa a Māui – Te Herenga Waka –Victoria University of Wellington, where he teaches courses on Māori language and customs. Mike believes that learning language and customs significantly enhance the wellbeing of society.

Mike also contributed to the widely read Imagining Decolonisation, a book that has been reprinted four times since it was first published in 2020. Since then, the book has been awarded the Booksellers’ Choice Award at the 2021 Aotearoa Book Industry Awards.

As a recipient of the Te Rangaunua Hiranga Māori Award from the Royal Society Te Apārangi, Mike and his colleagues has been recognised for innovative co-created research conducted by Māori that has made a distinctive contribution to community wellbeing and development in Aotearoa.


Eboni Waitere

Ngāti Kahungunu, Rangitane

Eboni leads the commercial publishing programme for HUIA Publishers, an award winning and internationally recognised publisher that continues to discover new writers and attract established authors. HUIA is a major sponsor of the Māori Literature Trust. As part of the support, HUIA delivers writers’ workshops, mentoring programmes and biennial writers’ awards. Eboni leads these programmes. As a graduate of Kōhanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa Māori, Eboni has first-hand experience of Māori medium education. She uses this knowledge in her oversight of the range of print and digital resources that HUIA develops for Māori. Having solid governance experience has also led to Eboni chairing a number of business and community boards and trusts.

Apenti Eruera Tamanui-Fransen

Apenti Eruera Tamanui-Fransen

Ngaariki kaipūtahi, te aitanga-a-māhaki, Ngāpuhi

‘Mai i Maungahaumi ki ngā pari i mamae rā’

Apenti joins Te Waka Taki Kōrero with a unique set of cross-sector skills working in both the public and private sectors and brings with him experiences in management planning and policy, education, business development, governance and consulting. Apenti has experience in managing stakeholders and teams, developing user and whānau cantered solutions to deliver on strategic priorities.

A graduate of kōhanga reo, kura kaupapa, rūmaki reo and whare wānanga, Apenti has held positions on numerous boards including the NZ Hi-Tech Trust, NZ Innovation Hub, East Coast Hawkes Bay Conservation Board and is a current trustee for Mangatū Marae.


Our team

Elise Adams

Elise Adams

Ngāti Hāua, Te Āti Haunui ā Papārangi, Te Roroa

Recent and experienced leader in governance and management within the not-for-profit sector, Elise Adams joins our team with an extended background in publishing, education and social services sectors.

Born in Auckland, raised and now living back in Taumarunui after 20 years in Wellington – Elise rejoins the team within Te Waka Taki Kōrero – Māori Literature Trust on a part-time basis to support the Board to deliver on strategic objectives.

Having managed the delivery of the first Te Papa Tupu Programme as Programme Manager for Huia, Elise’s reconnection with the Trust is a welcomed opportunity to directly support the kaupapa of fostering Māori writers and their contribution to the literary works of Aotearoa and the world.

Exploring ones own creative side at home, her time is also spent contributing to iwi education, maara kai, learning rāranga and as māmā and kuia to her growing whānau.

Click here to get in touch with Elise:


Nicole Titihuia Hawkins

Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa, Ngāti Pāhauwera

Nicole Titihuia Hawkins (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa, Ngāti Pāhauwera) joins us as Programme Co-ordinator, to help us promote and celebrate Māori writers and their stories. Nicole is a writer, teacher and proud new Māmā. Passionate about story sovereignty and advocacy, Nicole is the co-founder and facilitator of Poetry with Brownies – safe space open mic events for indigenous poets.

Nicole lives in Te Awakairangi and runs an earring business with her best friend. Nicole has work published by Overland, Capital Magazine, Blackmail Press, Sport 47, Awa Wāhine and The Spinoff. Her collection, Whai, won the Jessie Mackay Prize for best first book of Poetry at the 2022 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. You can check out Nicole’s mahi on Instagram.

Feel free to get in touch with Nicole about anything and everything exciting happening in the world of Māori Literature – we want to celebrate your success!


Lee Stuart

Ngāti Pū, Ngāti rangitihi

Founder of a kaupapa-led Virtual Assitance company, hiring Lee Stuart has meant that we have gone global, with Lee relocating to the United Kingdom. Lee is passionate about empowering Māori-led organisations both domestically and internationally, through a framework of manaakitanga (reciprocity), whanaungatanga (connection) and tino rangatiratanga (self-determination). Having worked as a Digital Strategist and Content Creator for pakihi Māori both locally and abroad, Lee comes to us with the experience to amplify the Trust’s vision, broaden audience engagement and reach, and promote Māori writers.

You can check out Lee’s mahi with us on Facebook and Instagram. Feel free to get in touch with Lee about any media inquiries.


Strategic Priorities

To create a groundswell of interest for Māori writers and their stories. To take advantage of new and tested channels to reach a broader audience to grow the profile of Māori writers and share Māori stories. We believe that the literature of Aotearoa could be richer with Māori voices, front and centre. To gain broader recognition of Māori writers, nationally and globally.

Our commitment

Creating opportunities for Māori writers to raise their profiles, so that all New Zealanders and the rest of the world benefit from the richness of a Māori story.

To transform into an organisation that has the freedom to expand the opportunities for Māori writers giving effect to ‘taking Māori voices to the world’. We can no longer rely on the support from one major funder and one major delivery partner. Resourcing should not be a barrier to the delivery of an ambitious programme.

Our commitment

Transforming the organisation into a magnet, attracting new revenue to sustain a lean organisation, with an ambitious future programme.

To set new standards for good governance and new ways of working, creating a Board culture that enables:

  • the Trustees to be successful as strategic advisors and decision-makers
  • the Programme to be led, supported and actively promoted
  • the impact of the Programme is understood and celebrated

Our commitment

Growing a high-performance Board, enabling each Trustee to govern with impact – taking a lead from best practice in governance, maintaining our commitment to kaupapa Māori.

To grow capability and capacity to deliver an ambitious programme for Māori writers that creates impact. To engage with the collective of Māori writers to steer programme development, to connect with new partners to deliver on the ambition of the new programme, to evolve connections to effectively co-create the future programme.

Our commitment

To transform the literary landscape of Aotearoa, we recognise that we must broaden our reach through effective partnerships with iwi, individuals, business and organisations, to achieve more.

Our Logo

The new logo was designed by Raymond Hohipa of Tūhoe and Kahungunu descent. He was inspired by the traditional quill, which was one of the most important inventions to writing. It allowed us to record our histories, ideas and discoveries. Prior to the quill, a small number of talented people carved as a way of communicating. The quill transformed the way in which people connected, and it made communication more accessible to the multitudes, who were now able to document their ideas and art.

The two koru shapes represent both the writers and the readers. The interdependences between the readers and the writers are critically important to successful storytelling.

Pikihuia, the symbol of the plume, represents quality and continuous improvement, and these important characteristics are valued by the Trust. The term Pikihuia has also been adopted to celebrate the writers’ awards.

Finally, the feather acknowledges the bond between the Māori Literature Trust and Huia Publishers, which uses the huia bird as its symbol.


He Poutama Tuhituhi


Talented writers of all experience levels are identified through the Pikihuia Awards.


Writers taking the next step in their journey can improve their skills through Te Papa Tupu.


Shortlisted stories from the Pikihuia Awards are published in a collection of short fiction and writers who participate in Te Papa Tupu enhance their publishing opportunity.


To create a groundswell of interest for Māori writers and their stories. To take advantage of new and tested channels to reach a broader audience to grow the profile of Māori writers and share Māori stories.