AuOra another step in Wakatū’s journey towards its 500-year intergenerational vision – Te Pae Tawhiti

Executive Director of AuOra, Miriana Stephens
(Photographer Kate McPherson)

Three years ago, Nelson-based Māori-owned organisation Wakatū Incorporation embarked upon the journey of creating a health, nutrition and wellness solution business with a difference.

AuOra (pronounced oh-ora) was formally established in March this year to provide environmentally-sustainable health and wellness solutions that solve metabolic, joint, digestive, brain and skin health challenges.

The Executive Director of AuOra, Miriana Stephens says, although products sold under the AuOra house of brands may look like dietary supplements when taken at face value, there’s a deep underlying imperative that makes the brand unique.

For a start, all aspects of the processes and resulting products of AuOra must support and build upon the purpose of Wakatū, which is to preserve and enhance its taonga for the benefit of current and future generations.

“This is not just for the benefit of Wakatū,” explains Miriana. “Everything we do is designed to benefit our people, our region, Māori as a whole and NZ Inc – now and for future generations.”

The AuOra model involves working with client companies to identify what their consumers need and then co-designing solutions based on traditional Māori knowledge and conventional science. AuOra can then either source the material via their food and beverage business, Kono NZ, or from another provider. Alternatively, AuOra can commission Kono NZ or another provider to grow the raw materials from scratch if there is not currently a reliable, high-quality supply.

Miriana says AuOra is currently working with an Asian client to co-design and commercialise the first AuOra product. She anticipates Asian clients will form the basis of their markets initially. All resulting products will be marketed by Wakatū under the AuOra house of brands, supported where appropriate by third-party local and off-shore partners.

To support Auora and the work of Wakatū, Wakatū has a full-time botanist working on identifying and understanding the therapeutic properties of indigenous, endemic and introduced organisms, plants, marine species, fungi found in Te Tauihu, the top of the South Island. Running alongside this work is a programme to gather knowledge about traditional Māori medicinal usage. Insights from both streams feed into the scientific and R&D programmes of AuOra.

Miriana says these are exciting times for Wakatū, AuOra and Kono NZ alike.

“These models are unique in New Zealand on the scale we are doing it. For example, Wakatū is the first Māori commercial entity to be given observer status at the World Intellectual Property Organisation Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore. That’s significant for us as an organisation, but even more so for Māori as a whole and NZ Inc.

“There has been too little done, too late, to protect the cultural rights, authenticity and integrity of the Māori language and traditional knowledge – the issues surrounding ‘mānuka’ is a classic example. Wakatū and our AuOra and Kono NZ businesses are very much focused on getting our intellectual property house in order, because if we don’t then nobody else will.

“Being good kaitiaki of our culture is pivotal to the goal of AuOra which is to design and deliver health and wellness solutions that enhance quality of life and our natural world.”

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