Dr Ihirangi Heke


Ihirangi Heke, of Tainui-Waikato descent, was raised in the South Island mountain adventure environment before it was popularly known as such. This has helped to mould his particular approach to his personal and professional life, which has seen him build a range of specialised skills, knowledge and experiences in health and physical activity. A graduate of Otago University, he has lectured there and built a career based on helping athletes, both ordinary and elite, achieve goals beyond their expectations.

Dr Heke has been working with Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore), where the Global Obesity Prevention Centre funded him to conduct a study using traditional indigenous health approaches alongside Systems Dynamics. Also, Dr Heke is working with Washington University (St Louis) in the development of training programmes exchanging Systems Dynamics from indigenous and non-indigenous perspectives.

In New Zealand, Dr Heke is an honorary research fellow at the University of Auckland. Dr Heke is an elite athlete performance consultant to New Zealand Sport and has worked in disciplines ranging from traditional netball and rugby to the more contemporary interests of golf and motorsports.

A meeting of minds with the late Dr Paratene Ngata resulted in Dr Heke moving his family to the rural East Coast town of Tolaga Bay and working with local Te Aitanga ā Hauiti people on indigenous, activity-based, preventative health solutions, that is, motivating local Māori to be active within their land and seascapes. This marked a turning point in his practice. Over the past ten years, he has been active in helping Māori and other indigenous groups abroad build their own health and wellness activities based on their traditional knowledge. His Atua-Matua Framework has been a work in progress. It is attracting national and international attention from health and education policymakers and providers who are struggling to apply standard Western deficit models to global health initiatives and are looking to more localised indigenous models of engagement to deal with global health issues.

On any one day of the week, you might find Ihi mountain biking with Te Arawa people in Rotorua, playing traditional games with students in Kaikohe, at a trekking meeting in the snow in Japan, or in a virtual meeting with colleagues from Auckland University, Brookings Institute Washington, and a marae in Uawa. This is all part of him joining the dots to enable Māori and other indigenous peoples to define and determine their own health pathways and solutions. Ihi is a busy man, and that is the key, be busy, be active or be gone.


Profile By

Dr Wayne Ngata 2017

He Rangatira Our Leaders

Megan Tahere

Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi te Rangi, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi

I first came to know Megan as her external peer supervisor when she enrolled to do a Master’s Degree.

Professor Linda Waimarie Nikora

Te Aitanga a Hauiti, Tūhoe

Ko te pae tawhiti, whāia kia tata

Ko te pae tata, whakamaua kia tinā

To seek new knowledge as yet unexplored

As the past is purchased by the present


Terri Cassidy

Ngāti Maniapoto

I have had the honour and absolute privilege of knowing Terri Cassidy for over 20 years now.

Dr Rees Tapsell

Ngāti Whakaue, Raukawa

Dr. Rees Tapsell has been involved in developing several Māori specific approaches to the provision of mental health care for Māori in both government and NGO settings for more than 30 years.