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About COMET Auckland

COMET Auckland's Kaumātua

Ina te Mahi he Rangatira  - By his deeds a Chief is known

Kaumātua are respected tribal elders in a Mâori community. They hold the knowledge and traditions of the family, sub-tribe and tribe. They are appointed by people who believe the chosen elders have the capacity to teach and guide both current and future generations. Kaumātua  have good knowledge of tikanga, history, and te reo; and their contribution ensures that the mana of the whânau, hapu, and iwi are maintained.   

COMET Auckland is very fortunate to have two hard-working kaumātua who add mana to our work. Over recent months they have guided and supported us with a recent series of kanohi-ki-te-kanohi visits to help shape COMET Auckland’s future.


Sonny Rauwhero
He aha te mea nui o te ao?  He tangata, he tangata, he tangata – What is the most important thing in the world. It is people, it is people, it is people.

From Te Akitai whanau, and Tainui iwi, Sonny hails from Port Waikato and was brought up in Mangere. He went to school at Mangere Central and left school in entrepreneurial fashion at 16.  Sonny became a social services advocate with the Department of Social Welfare, later becoming a Matua Whaangai.

With a particular interest in the future of children, especially abused children, and a focus on their parents and families, Sonny obtained a Diploma in social work through the “night school” route. Sonny’s interest in outcomes for Māori families continued through appointments with the Department of Māori Affairs and the Child Youth and Family Service.

Following three years at Te Huakina Development Trust, Matua Sonny came to MIT in 1999 as its kaumātua. Sonny is highly respected as a Tainui kaumātua and remains passionate about outcomes for families. He was responsible for naming COMET Auckland’s flagship partnership programme Te Whanau Ara Mua – the pathway to learning for families.


Papa Kūkupa Tirikatene, ONZM

(8 March 1934 – 28 January 2018)

E tangi tikapakapa ana te ngākau i te wehenga o te Toihau Ariki.

E Papa Kū, Moe mai i roto i ngā ringaringa o te Kaihanga.

Whaia te ara i takatakahia e te tini me te mano, Okioki atu rā.

- nā Hauāuru Rawiri  


We wish to pay tribute to Papa Kūkupa Tirikatene, our kaumātua at COMET Auckland who gave us many years of support and guidance. COMET Auckland chief executive Susan Warren says his death is a deep loss to all who knew him.

“As COMET whānau, we will especially miss his wise advice, his insightful views on what matters in education, his glorious singing voice and his ability to bring just the right personally-composed whakatauākī to every occasion.”

Papa Kū was the eighth of 12 children born to Sir Eruera and Lady Ruti Matekino Tirikatene. A native speaker of te reo, he spent much of his career in education teaching Māori language, tikanga and history. He started at Rosehill College in Papakura in 1976, moving in 1993 to Manukau Institute of Technology where he was kaiākau and head of the Maori department. He also served as iwi kaumātua on behalf of Ngāi Tahu for the marae at Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand. 

Papa Kū was a composer of whakataukī and waiata. He graciously allowed COMET Auckland to use as our guiding whakatauākī  his metaphor of weaving a tapestry of understanding: 

E kore e taea e te whenu kotahi ki te raranga I te whâriki kia môhio tâtou ki â tâtou. The tapestry of understanding cannot be woven by one strand alone.

 You can read it in full here .