This morning, the tobacco control sector and community members will be welcomed onto Kōkiri marae to celebrate the launch of the Whakahā o Te Pā Harakeke research programme which aims to help reduce smoking disparities and achieve a Smokefree Aotearoa.

The group was one of only five groups this year to receive a $4.95 million programme grant from the Health Research Council. The programme will work with Māori communities to help eliminate smoking inequities and accelerate progress towards a Smokefree Aotearoa.

Whakahā o Te Pā Harakeke represents the interweaving of knowledge and strength to achieve our country’s vision to be smokefree by 2025 and the interconnectedness that we share with one another and te taiao. Hāpai connected with Māori communities nationwide over the last 12 months who highlighted their collective challenges around smoking, particularly the toxic environments which make tobacco easier to access and harder to quit.

Māori Health Researcher, Lizzie Strickett (Ngāpuhi/ Te Aupōuri), comments: "I’m thrilled that we as Hāpai are able to contribute to this kaupapa to highlight and reiterate the strength and leadership of whānau. I never cease to be amazed by the many thoughtful and creative solutions that our young leaders share with us on this kaupapa. We’re grappling with how we will return to having our homes and communities smokefree- like it once was for us, and we hope this programme will enable us translate whānau whakaaro into action".

Whakahā o Te Pā Harakeke represents a collaboration between Otago University, Hāpai Te Hauora, Kōkiri Marae, Keriana Olsen Trust, and ESR. Kōkiri marae has a long history working in tobacco control and will bring their strong community to focus to the programme.

Anaru Waa (Ngāti Hine) is a primary investigator from Otago University and states that collaborating with different sectors is incredibly important to ensure leaders at every level from communities to government have a chance to contribute.

"From a Māori perspective, we need to better understand what is causing smoking disparities to exist and what we can do from a policy perspective. We also need to engage and support from a community perspective too."

Chief Executive Officer of Hāpai Te Hauora Selah Hart comments that  I’m looking forward to 2025, when this 5 year programme concludes, so I can say that we did it - we are a smokefree Aotearoa because we listened to our Māori communities and followed their lead."