On behalf of Te Wharekura o Mauao
16 February 2018
Te Wharekura o Mauao has confirmed Mātua Heywood Kuka has been appointed as the Maori immersion school’s new Tumuaki (principal), succeeding Matua Koa Douglas.
Located in Bethlehem, Tauranga, Te Wharekura o Mauao provides tikanga Māori education for Year 7 to 13 students, and having recently welcomed an additional 70 students, will have a school roll of 240 this year.
Mr Kuka has been with the Wharekura since its inception in 2010 and prior to his appointment, was the school’s Tumuaki Āwhina (Associate Principal).
“I’m extremely honoured to accept this position as the new Tumuaki at Te Wharekura o Mauao,” says Mr Kuka.
“I have a real connection with this school. My father, Tame Kuka, was the founding Tumuaki here, and my son has gone through as a student.”
Mr Kuka says as Tumuaki, his aspiration is to carry on the work and vision that local tīpuna and kaumātua had for the school.
“Their vision was about our tauira (students) being proud of who they are and where they come from, being proud of being Māori and of our traditions, being fluent in te reo, and being able to succeed in the mainstream world.
“I’m really excited about the way forward. We have a strong teaching group, our community is 100 percent behind the school, and our philosophy brings out the most in our tauira.
“My goal is that each student who leaves this place can stand resolute in this community, and in the world, knowing they can be whoever they want to be and take their culture with them.”
In 2016, Te Wharekura o Mauao introduced a new curriculum that encourages students to choose their own learning path, based on what they are passionate about. School attendance has since soared and the number of NCEA Merit and Excellence results have significantly increased.
“This school is something I thoroughly believe in – it’s about students having a place to learn in their own way.
“We are challenging mainstream traditions here - flipping everything on its head. We are making sure that the centre of everything is the student and what they want. They are leading their own learning, and it’s working,” says Mr Kuka.
Te Wharekura o Mauao Chairman Graham Cameron says Mr Kuka represents a new generation in Māori and educational leadership for Tauranga Moana.
“We are very excited to see Mātua Heywood step up as Tumuaki of this school.
“Over the last few weeks we have seen him in action, as acting principal, and it’s only emphasised to us that we have made the right decision.”
Mr Cameron says the Board spent a lot of time working out what they wanted in a new principal.
“We wanted someone strongly connected to Tauranga Moana, and who would help build up Māori and educational leadership within our rohe – that is very important to us as a wharekura.
“We also needed someone committed to carrying on the passion-based learning we have implemented and helping students achieve quality standards in the areas they want to learn in.
“Matua Heywood is deeply immersed in his marae, hapū and iwi, and truly committed to this school. We are all excited about the future of Te Wharekura o Mauao.”
Photo of Matua Heywood Kuka
A short video of Matua Heywood Kuka can be viewed at
About Te Wharekura o Mauao
Te Wharekura o Mauao is a tikanga Māori education provider based in Bethlehem, Tauranga. It offers Year 7 to Year 13 students a solid foundation to reach their academic, sporting and cultural potential, while immersed in tikanga and Te Reo Māori.
021 491 499