Turanga Health chief executive Reweti Ropiha has been announced as one of 100 inspirational Kiwis who have made a difference in their corner of Aotearoa.
The group of 100 local heroes from Cape Reinga to Bluff have fed families in need, donated thousands of volunteer hours, or carried out exceptional work for the benefit of those around them.
The medallists are now in the running for the coveted 2023 Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero Award Te Pou Toko o te Tau.
Mr Ropiha is chief executive of Turanga Health and says the surprise nomination goes a long way to honouring the work of staff at the iwi health provider.
“This is an accolade for the hundreds of staff that have worked at Turanga Health since its inception in 1997, staff who work here now, and whānau and families who have put their faith in us over the years.”
A champion for his people and their health, Mr Ropiha, Rongowhakaata, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, has been at the helm of Turanga Health for 25 years. He and his team worked hard during the pandemic to help the region get vaccinated. With a kaupapa Māori approach that included hosting mass vaccination events around the rohe and face-to-face kōrero, he was driven to provide opportunities for people to engage with the science about vaccines in ways that suited them.
Mr Ropiha was wrapping up a weekly Turanga Health board chair Pene Brown presented him with the Kiwibank Local Hero medal. “It was a surprise,” says Mr Ropiha. “I thought Pene was here to acknowledge staff birthdays!”
Mr Brown doesn’t know who nominated Mr Ropiha. He says the natural-born leader shies away from limelight, so it was important to him that the medal was presented in front of the full team.
“As well as his behind-the-scenes strong leadership, like all Turanga Health staff, Reweti worked hundreds of hours at community vaccination events,” says Pene. “He was there alongside everyone else through those busy hectic days of the pandemic, in hi-vis at the head of the car queue.”
Mr Brown says Mr Ropiha and Turanga Health has continued to lead the way in the region’s Covid-19 response, spearheading innovations such as community events that offer a range of vaccinations, emergency housing pods at local marae, and a health hub in Elgin.
Sharing his skills and knowledge across many organisations, Mr Ropiha is also involved with the Vanessa Lowndes Centre, Matai Trust, Nga Taonga a Nga Tama Toa Trust, and the Sunrise Foundation.
The 2023 Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero Award Te Pou Toko o te Tau forms part of the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards. The list of 100 Local Heroes will be whittled down to 10 finalists in mid-December. The three other Tairāwhiti heroes nominated alongside Mr Ropiha are #Hear4U founder Krissy Mackintosh, Tokomaru Bay Civil Defence coordinator Lillian Te Hau Ward and Te Tairāwhiti arts festival director Tama Waipara.
Meanwhile, Mr Ropiha was recognised at the Gisborne District Council Civic Awards this month. The local awards acknowledge individuals or organisations involved in substantial community service that benefits the people of Tairāwhiti. Mr Ropiha was recognised alongside Alexia English, Amanda Mathers, Rawinia Parata and Jason King.
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