In 1996 at a hui at Papawai Marae in Greytown, Ngati Moe hapu led by Janice Wenn and Kim Workman developed a proposal for 'by Māori for Māori' community based health services for Wairarapa - this service would be under the umbrella of Ngati Kahungunu Māori executive Taiwhenua (NKMET).
Funded by the Regional Health Authority (RHA) and later, the Health Funding Authority (HFA), Whaiora Whanui opened in May 1997 on the corner of Bannister and Dixon Streets. Jancie Wenn initially worked part time with enrolled nurse Muri Jaro and they visited whānau in their homes. The staffing increased quickly as Janice secured a number of health contracts to improve Māori health. As well as Muri Jaro, Whaiora Whanui staff in these developing years included registered nurses Elaine Hauraki-Walker, Patricia Te Tau, Molly Kainuku and Katie Perry, as well as Pauline Hooper (EN), Hera Edwards, Janeen Cross, Hinehou Adam, Frances Rata, and Pam Britt.
In 1999 NKMET, with support from Health Care Aotearoa, expanded Whaiora Whanui services to include a General Practice. Dr Nathan Joseph was employed as the resident GP, Kath Parkin as the Practice Nurse, and Triny Ruhe as the Practice Manager. Coincidentally, these services were situated in Lincoln Road, on the site where Dr Wyvern Cook was based in the early 1900s, the Salvation Army in the 1980s, and Masterton Medical Ltd from 2002 - 2014.
In December 2000 the hapu members of NKMET Board gave Whaiora Whanui the mandate to become our own autonomous entity. Whaiora Whanui Trust was registered as a Charitable Trust on 13 December 2000. Kingi Smiler was appointed as the Chair and it began operating on 1 January 2001. However, Dr Joseph moved to work with Ngati Porou Hauora, and as we were not able to recruit another GP the Whaiora Whanui General Practice was not able to be sustained. Consequently, Whaiora Whanui entered into an arrangement with 'The Doctors' in 2001 and the majority of the patients were transferred to this Medical Centre.
In March 2001 Whaiora Whanui moved into 107 and 109 Church Street. However a growing number of contracts from the Ministry of Health, Wairarapa DHB, Te Roopu Huihuinga, and Ministry of Social Development meant more staff were needed and these premises were soon too small. In 2005 Whaiora Whanui moved to 5 Park Street Masterton - our current site.
Teresea Olsen was appointed to the Board in the latter part of 2003 and then as Chair in 2004. Teresea has been key in the oversight of the strategic direction of Whaiora.
In 2008 Hone Hurihanganui, then CEO of Whaiora Whānui, gained the permission of local kaumātua for Whaiora Whānui to now be "Whaiora". Hone Hurihanganui, with Dr David Smith, was also integral in April 2010 to the establishment of the Medical Centre as the town's only Vey Low Cost Access (VLCA) General Practice - which enabled doctors visits at an affordable cost. This was in response to the need to improve access for Masterton people with the greatest health needs. Dr Annie Lincoln was also key in the 'early days' when she worked part-time at Whaiora. Our current GPs are Dr Pete Morrison and Dr Pierre Swanepoel. Whaiora received Cornerstone accreditation in October 2010.
Māori Health Workforce Development
Whaiora is a strong advocate for nurturing the up and coming clinical and social workforce. We regularly host student placements from all over NZ, so they are able to experience working in a kaupapa Māori organisation with a comprehensive range of services. Whaiora has also hosted three medical students from Glasgow University, Scotland as part of their practicum.
In 2015 Wairarapa DHB established the Te Ara Whata Totika scholarship to support a student nurse through UCOL Bachelor of Nursing. This scholarship was placed under the Whaiora umbrella. Samantha Kahukura was selected as the scholarship recipient, and continues to be supported through her study pathway to becoming a midwife on successful completion of her study and training.
In 2016 Whaiora was approved as a Teaching Centre for Registrars.