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Te Pou Tupua


Te Pou Tupua is the human face and voice of Te Awa Tupua, and acts on its behalf.  Te Pou Tupua is comprised of two people forming one station.

In 2017, the Office of Te Pou Tupua was established by the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act. The legislation ensured that two people - a Crown appointee and an iwi appointee – would share the role of Te Pou Tupua and act as guardian on behalf of Te Awa Tupua (the Whanganui River).


The current Pou Tupua are Turama Hawira (iwi appointee) and Keria Ponga (Crown appointee) who serve as the face and voice of Te Awa Tupua (the Whanganui River).


The Office of Te Pou Tupua has a small team including an Executive Assistant (Te Taituarā o Te Pou Tupua) Office Admin (Te Kōpiha), and an Advisory Team of three (Te Karewao). Te Pou Tupua operates independently and has close working relationships with:

  • Ngā Tangata Tiaki o Whanganui, the Post Settlement Governance Entity for Whanganui iwi

  • Te Kōpuka, the strategy group made up of people and organisations with interests in the Whanganui River catchment, including eight iwi, local and central government, commercial and recreational users and environmental groups

  • Te Pākurukuru, the Whanganui Iwi - Crown relationship agreement.

A New Way of Strategic Thinking

The role of Te Pou Tupua is essential in the context of Te Awa Tupua. During negotiations with the Crown, it was agreed that legal personhood would be used to carry Tupua Te Kawa, and the question of trusteeship of this legal status arose. To fulfil this role, a high-level 'Pou' or station was established to act as a trustee for the new legal status. Additionally, this station serves as a beacon to promote a shift from the current imported legal and philosophical constructs defining the River - to a perspective rooted in kawa, the indigenous worldview.


Te Pou Tupua acts as an active support or ridgepole for Tupua Te Kawa, similar to how the tāhuhu supports the ridgepole of a whare (house). Without Te Pou Tupua representing the new legal status, the overarching status of Te Awa Tupua, as defined through Tupua Te Kawa, would be at risk of collapsing. Te Awa Tupua would then become merely a symbolic status, lacking substance and strength to withstand external pressures, if the legal status is not represented in some form.

Te Pou Tupua has the duty to engage with and represent the collective views of all communities within the Whanganui River through the following means:

  • Developing relationships at both the central and local government levels.

  • Establishing relationships with hapū and iwi.

  • Building relationships with the communities of Te Awa Tupua.

  • Advocating for understanding and awareness among all communities of Te Awa Tupua.

  • Performing landowner duties.

  • Managing Te Korotete.

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Te Pou Tupua uphold the Te Awa Tupua status and Tupua te Kawa.

Te Pou Tupua exist to promote and protect the health and wellbeing of Te Awa Tupua.

Image Copyright Gail Imhoff Photography

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Turama Hawira is a highly experienced advisor and educator having been mentored in the ritual practises of the Whare Wānanga o Aotea and having lectured in undergraduate studies for several Māori tertiary institutions. As a trustee of Te Reo o Whanganui Trust, he has co-designed and delivered Iwi curriculum education training courses under the auspices of UCOL, Whanganui.

Fluent in Te Reo o Whanganui, Mr Hawira has been a trustee and director of several hapū and iwi trusts, and organisations including chairing the Nga Rauru Iwi post settlement governance entity. He is also currently serving his fifteenth year as a responsible trustee of the Morikaunui Incorporation.

He has performed numerous advisory roles with local and central government and private sector organisations, including providing tikanga and cultural advice. He has provided advice and presented research on behalf of hapū and iwi claimants of the wider Whanganui-Ruapehu district, including before the Whanganui District Inquiry of the Waitangi Tribunal, WAI 903.

Mr. Hawira has been reappointed to serve a second term and brings extensive cultural knowledge and practical experience of the Iwi of Whanganui River to the role.

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Keria Ponga, together with her late husband Royce Te Rangitautahi Ponga, has been central to many key efforts for the Whanganui River.


For more than 40 years, Mrs Ponga has amassed a deep appreciation and love of Whanganui Awa tribal knowledge, as well as a career in community development, private enterprise, business mentoring and economic development within a national context.


Mrs Ponga offers experience having held governance and leadership roles within several organisations, the most current being Ātihau-Whanganui Incorporation, and the Sarjeant Gallery Trust.

Born and raised at Pūtiki alongside her elders, Mrs Ponga brings to the role of Te Pou Tupua an intimate understanding of Te Awa Tupua, and a commitment to serve her Iwi for the betterment of future generations.

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