Riana Manuel

Ngāti Pukenga, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Kahungunu

Riana Manuel hails from a small village called Manaia in Pare Hauraki.  Riana is the daughter of two very hardworking and community-minded parents. She is a wife to Hone Manuel, who hails from Ruatorea, is of Ngāti Porou descent, and is a Mama and Nanny (she says her finest and most important role to date).  Riana is a skilled and strategic leader within Māori and health sectors, with extensive experience leading kaupapa Māori organisations. She is passionate about creating changes that provide better health and well-being for Māori and improve social determinants that affect hauora.

Riana was appointed as the first Chief Executive Officer of Te Aka Whai Ora, the Māori Health Authority, in 2022. When she first went into this role, she focused on getting resources out to people at a provider level and at an iwi, hapū and whānau level. She believes that communities know best how to serve their people and get the resources to communities so that they can start doing the things that they know instinctively how to do.

She went into this role recognising that reforms don’t happen that often and that this would be an opportunity to change things in the system that don’t work. She’s been working as a kaupapa provider on the ground and has seen and felt the pressure of a system not addressing Māori needs.  She also recognises that the health system has taken nearly 200 years to reach this point and that change will take time. 

During COVID-19, Riana worked as the Chief Executive Officer at Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki and was also the CEO for Hauraki PHO. The reality of the pandemic highlighted many aspects of what makes a whānau vulnerable. This included large intergenerational whānau living in tiny households that experienced overcrowding and, therefore, were at a higher risk. She said, “Before COVID, we talked about what highly vulnerable subsets look like, but post-COVID, you can actually touch and feel it, and our response has to be driven by whānau.”

Riana has been a registered nurse for over 30 years and enjoys a career that sees her work across many different parts of the health sector. She also owns the Phoenix House Rest Home and Hospital, an Aged Care Residential facility that her parents built in Coromandel.  Growing up around Phoenix House taught me about service to our small and very rural community.  She has been involved in several Treaty of Waitangi claims, including the health-related Wai 2575 claim, and she put in many hours to support vaccination and testing centres during the pandemic response.

She has received a Bachelor of Nursing from Waikato Institute of Technology, a Graduate Diploma in child, family and community care from Whitireia Polytechnic and a Postgraduate Diploma in Business and Administration from Te Whare Wananga o Waikato the Waikato University.

Riana strongly believes that we must change now so that our tamariki and mokopuna have a better future.


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