The gifting of our name

An expert advisory group, headed by pou tikanga Rahui Papa, was responsible for the development of te reo Māori names for both Te Whatu Ora - Health New Zealand and Te Aka Whai Ora - Māori Health Authority.

These two names, while distinctly different to each other, share a close relationship founded in the ancient legend of Tāwhaki. The video in the next section explains the legend behind our name.

The process of naming both entities was initiated by Tā Mason Durie and the Steering Group advising the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on the establishment of the interim board of the Māori Health Authority.

The meaning of Te Whatu Ora

Te Whatu Ora is ‘the weaving of wellness’.

Though there can be other conceptual interpretations of the name, one context for Te Whatu Ora is found in the weaving of culture – bringing two or more strands together to weave a basket; a basket of life.

In the weaving tradition, the whatu is the weaving process that brings together the aho (horizontal thread) and whenu (vertical thread).

Te Whatu Ora is the combining together of people, resources, organisations, thoughts and actions for the betterment and wellbeing of all.

Whatu is also a direct reference to the pupil of the eye, and the vision required of the new entity and system. The whatu provides a new and fresh perspective to how health services are planned, delivered, and assessed into the future in laying down the foundations for a new health system that delivers better outcomes for all.

According to the expert advisory group who gifted it to us, there is a strong spiritual and practical foundation in the name Te Whatu Ora, which is easy to pronounce and remember, and also provides the opportunity to embrace a future-focused vision.

Our Tohu

An illustration of the tohu pattern used by Te Whatu Ora to represent 'the weaving of wellness'. An illustration of the tohu pattern used by Te Whatu Ora to represent 'the weaving of wellness'. An illustration of the tohu pattern used by Te Whatu Ora to represent 'the weaving of wellness'.

Image containing Pātiki and Waharua Kōpito patterns.

Our tohu consists of a Tāniko (ornamental border) with hanging strands below it.

The Tāniko contains multiple symbols, such as:

  • Pātiki / Pātikitiki - pātiki (the flounder) symbolises providing for all, abundance; pātikitiki is a pattern used on tukutuku panels, kits and mats, originating from the lashing together of framework timbers of houses.
  • Waharua Kōpito represents 'a point where people/events cross'. Waharua is a tukutuku pattern with small double diamond shapes representing commitment and courage.

This design also represents three eyes, and the three baskets of knowledge (see 'The legend' below).

The hanging strands below the Tāniko represent wellness reaching us all.

The legend

In the pūrakau (ancient legend), when Tāwhaki ascended into heaven to attain the three baskets of knowledge, he also collected two mauri stones named ‘Hōkai nuku’ and ‘Hōkai rangi’. These stones were seen as supporting the three baskets of knowledge, with one having the ability to look back into the past, while the other provided a vision into the future.

This story also provides the link between the names ‘Te Whatu Ora’ for Health New Zealand and ‘Te Aka Whai Ora’ for the Māori Health Authority.