Our Team

Emeritus Professor Sir Mason Durie

Pou, Wai Research

  • Ngāti Kauwhata, Ngāti Raukawa and Rangitāne

Professor Sir Mason Durie is one of New Zealand’s most highly respected academics. His research on whānau development provided an important platform for Whānau Ora. He worked closely with Dame Tariana Turia to develop the Whānau Ora approach and was the founding Chair of the original Whānau Ora Taskforce in 2008. He also was a member of the group that was set up to oversee the initial implementation of Whānau Ora.

Sir Mason grew up in Feilding, attended Te Aute College, Hawke’s Bay, and graduated from the University of Otago with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in 1963. He has a postgraduate Diploma in Psychiatry from McGill University, Canada, and was Director of Psychiatry at Palmerston North Hospital then a member of the Royal Commission on Social Policy from 1986-88.

In 1988 he was appointed to the Chair in Māori Studies at Massey, where he graduated as a Doctor of Literature in 2003. He has been a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand since 1995 and a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit since 2001. In 2008, Otago University awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Prior to retirement in 2012 he was Professor of Māori Research and Development and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Massey University. He was appointed Professor Emeritus in 2013.

His extensive publications continue to be widely quoted within New Zealand and internationally, especially in connection with indigenous health advancement. In 2010 he was knighted for services to public health and especially Māori health.

Sir Mason’s research on whānau development and kaupapa Māori research imperatives have provided a significant knowledge base from which to advance Maori research in general, and in particular a community based Māori research entity such as Wai Research. With his substantial knowledge of Māori health research, Sir Mason has been instrumental in guiding and advising the Wai Research Unit since its inception in 2014, and Te Whānau o Waipareira are now honoured to be able to officially acknowledge Sir Mason as the Pou of the Wai Research Unit.


Dr Tanya Allport

Director of Research

  • Te Ati Awa, German
  • PhD, MA(Hons) and BA(Hons)

As Director of the Wai Research unit, Tanya guides the strategic direction of the Wai Research Unit, evaluation of funding, project development and overseeing the impact of research on the Waipareira community. Tanya’s role coordinates the implementation of high quality, responsive and timely research activities that support the vision of Te Whānau o Waipareira to create spaces where whānau hopes and opportunities can flourish.

As a Phd graduate from the University of Auckland, Tanya’s interest in Māori health has spanned from her doctoral thesis – which looked at representations of psychological trauma in Māori women – to her work for the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences; where she coordinated and tutored on the Hikitia Te Ora foundation programme for Māori and Pacific students seeking entry into the health sciences at the University of Auckland.

More recently Tanya worked as a senior researcher for claims to the Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal, submitting research reports to the Tribunal on claimant issues ranging from land block inquiries, traditional history and environmental impacts of Treaty breaches. With a background in various social research initiatives, Tanya’s primary interest is in contributing to research which is translational by nature – meaning research that is able to impact the Māori community in real, tangible positive ways, rather than research for the sake of research.


Professor Te Kani Kingi

Associate Director

  • Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Pūkeko
  • PhD, MSocSci(Hons), BSocSci,
  • GradDipMDev, DipTM

As Associate Director Te Kani has been working on supporting the Wai Research unit with strategy and project advice. Te Kani has also been essential in fostering partnerships with Massey University and other external research relationships.

Te Kani was an Associate Professor and Director Māori at Massey University in Wellington and has a specialist interest in mental health research, psychometrics, and Māori health. He has formally been an executive member of the New Zealand Public Health Association, The Mental Health Advocacy Coalition, the National Ethics Advisory Committee, the National Health Committee, the Public Health Advisory Committee, and past Chair of the New Zealand Mental Health Commission. He is currently a member of Statistics New Zealand’s Māori Advisory board, the Health Research Council and AKO Aotearoa Assessment Committees, the New Zealand Pharmacy Council, Nga Pae o te Maramatanga’s International Research Advisory Panel, and Chair of the Te Rau Puawai mental health scholarship scheme. He is also a member of the Families Commission Whānau Reference Group.

Te Kani was born and raised in Poroporo and was educated at St Stephen’s School in Bombay. He attended both Waikato and Massey University.


Dr John Tupou Huakau

Senior Epidemiologist

  • Tongan and English
  • PhD, MSc(Dist), PGDPH, and BSc(Honours)

John is Wai Research’s Outcomes Measurement and Needs Assessment lead specialising in epidemiology and biostatistics. With Wai Research he has published a number of reports looking at Māori descent population profiles and area snapshots of the South and West Auckland regions.

He is a graduate from the University of Auckland, where he wrote his PhD thesis on new methods for using epidemiological data to estimate the size of disease populations. After being awarded his PhD John worked at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences in the Department of Māori and Pacific Health, as a Research Fellow with the Pacific Health Research Centre, before accepting a Post-doctoral Fellowship at Massey University with the Social and Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation (SHORE) and Te Rōpū Whāriki (Whāriki) Research Centre.

More recently, John was employed as an Epidemiologist for Auckland and Waitemata District Health Board (DHB), Planning and Funding Team, where he carried out a Health Needs Assessment of the Pacific population, was involved in writing several Pacific Health Action Plans, and numerous other regular demographic, health status and inequality reports with a focus on Māori and Pacific populations. Since leaving the DHB John has been a contract researcher working for the Wai-Research unit.


Georgina Martin

Senior Researcher

  • Te Rarawa, Te Aupōuri, Ngāpuhi
  • Master Public Health, Registered General & Obstetric Nurse

Georgina has a wide and varied background in health and Māori community development, where her early experience as a registered nurse in public health in West Auckland shaped her interests in improving health care outcomes, and the ways that health providers work with whānau – a journey she recognises is on-going and full of challenges.

Since then, Georgina’s focus on improving services for whānau included being the National Māori Co-ordinator as part of the National Screening Unit team which established the National Breast Screening Programme, working in Te Tai Tokerau in primary health at Hokianga Health, participating in Whānau Ora research and representing Te Rūnanga O Te Rarawa on the Te Tai Tokerau PHO Board, where she became Chair. Over the last year her work has been about health literacy, with projects in West and South Auckland.

At Wai Research Georgina leads the research coordination for the Whānau House Collective Impact initiative and oversees external relationships and projects with other national research projects.


Hector Kaiwai

Associate Researcher/Evaluator

  • Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Maniapoto, Tūhoe
  • MA (Hons I), BA/BMus

Hector has worked for the last 12 years as a social and health researcher/evaluator and has an academic background in Māori Studies and Music. His research and evaluation portfolio is diverse and extensive having led, managed and designed, projects in areas such as hip hop dance and music, boxing, physical activity and nutrition, social marketing, sexual health, literacy, tobacco control, criminal justice, the media, alcohol, gambling, mentoring, interpersonal violence and fire safety. At Wai Research Hector contributes to a variety of research projects, with a particular focus on evaluation projects.


Haze White

Senior Research and Evaluation Lead

  • Tainui
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health – Specialising in Māori Health,
  • Bachelor of Health Sciences, Certificate in Health Sciences

With a strong passion for improving Māori hauora, Haze’s journey took him to the University of Auckland where his study focused on Māori health and Kaupapa Māori research. After graduating he became involved in a rheumatic fever study as the primary Māori interviewer, where he partook in insightful dialogue with whānau, uncovering variables that had previously been thought to have been insignificant. Haze’s passion for Māori research is therefore centred around the type of research which has the ability to directly inform the services and practices of Whānau Ora.

As an emerging researcher at the Wai Research unit, Haze has been responsible for assisting across the board on all research and evaluation activities for the Wai Research unit, with a particular focus on the “Catalysts of Health and Wellbeing” retrospective study of Waitakere Whānau.


Sneha Lakhotia

Policy Analysis Lead and Quantitative Researcher

  • Indian
  • BDS (Gold Medal) , MPH , Specialisation Social Epidemiology (Gold Medal)

As a Quantitative Researcher, Sneha is responsible for supporting whānau through research and measurement of targeted outcomes at the Wai Research, Evaluation and Measurement Work stream.

Her experience in the heath sector as a dental practitioner and passion to improve health for the greater population persuaded her to pursue her Masters in Public Health, specialising in Social Epidemiology. Her thesis was based on the role of social capital and social disparities in health services utilisation, for which she was awarded the Best Research Project and Gold Medal. In her previous role as an Analyst at the Indian School of Business, she worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in understanding the distribution models for diarrheal treatment and help build a hybrid model to improve the efficiency. Her stint included working with the State Ministry of Health to identify and build their capacity for public private partnerships in Healthcare. Her interests lie in health inequities, health systems, evidence based research and health innovation.


Cate Mentink


  • Dutch, English
  • GDipArts – Specialising in Māori and Indigenous Studies
  • Bachelor of Health Sciences – Public Health and Health Education

Ka arohanui a Cate mō ngā kaupapa hei whakawhanake i te hauora o te iwi Māori. As a qualitative researcher, Cate is involved in a number of different research and evaluation projects. Through her studies at the University of Canterbury, Cate gained research knowledge and an ambition towards studying and changing health outcomes in New Zealand. At University, Cate completed an internship with the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, looking at mental health and wellbeing of Cantabrians after the Christchurch earthquakes. Cate has been involved in volunteering with a number of non-profit community organisations, most recently focusing on youth health and wellbeing.


Clara Pau

Associate Researcher

  • Samoan, Pākehā
  • MA, BA(Hons), BSc

Clara works as an Associate Researcher for Wai Research. She grew up in Central Otago and attended the University of Otago where she achieved her undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications. Her MA in Indigenous Development examined how Pacific people utilize and interact with the digital world. She later worked at the University of Otago researching, formulating and executing programmes to increase academic achievement for students of Pacific Island descent. Clara’s career so far has centred on ensuring cultural understanding, accurate representation and self-determination of indigenous and minority populations in research which is impactful. Clara was awarded a Fulbright General Graduate Award in 2016 to undertake study at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.


Elica Safari Mehr


  • Iranian
  • PhD in Health Sciences, MSc, BSc

Elica is a researcher with a passion to improve healthcare delivery through innovations. Her expertise is in qualitative research and understanding people’s behaviour through change processes. Her background in Information Technology and their application in health systems grew her interest to pursue her PhD in the intersection of health and IT, while she focused on understanding the inter-relationships that can lead innovations in health care. In her previous roles, Elica was working as a researcher in R&D department in the Ministry of Health in Iran, where she got experience in a range of health-IT projects, especially in development of standards.
As a new research team member in Wai Research, Elica is involved with a range of research and outcome measurement projects, following her vision to make a real change in the healthcare delivery for whānau.