Members were impressed and inspired by the achievements of all involved in building Te Wananga o Raukawa from a student base of 2 in 1981 to a fully fledged university of 6,967 learners, 92% studying part time and 74% female, with 200 staff. The average age of students is 39.5 years. 
Pataka Moore, an expert and author in te reo and Maori oral history also has an extensive background in resource and environmental planning told us the story of his uncle. ......
Pātaka told us the story of their illustrious uncle, Whatarangi Winiata (, who was a recipient of a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship in 1961 (the first Māori recipient). He spent 16 years overseas, becoming highly educated.
On his return, Winiata was concerned about the disconnection of his people from their culture and heritage, and the loss of te reo: no one in the area under 30 spoke te reo. Winiata and other elders wanted to ensure te reo survived and Māori prospered.
Te Wānanga grew out of a 25 year plan, Whakatupuranga Rua Mano  - Generation 2000 - developed by the Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Raukawa and Ngāti Toa Rangatira (ART) Confederation. The strategy was built on 4 principles:
  • people are our wealth
  • te reo is a taonga
  • the marae is our principal home
  • self-determination
The young were to be linked with the old people to download their knowledge and preserve it. 
In 1981 from humble beginnings in the old Ōtaki Māori Boys' College building with 2 students (the sons of Whitirangi Winiata), the smallest university in the world grew. The government of the day would not recognise te Wānanga and so it started with no seed funding.
Volunteers tutored and many still do today, giving their time willingly.
Crown funding finally came. The campus now has modern facilities and many fine buildings, built along sustainable principles.
The surrounding iwi-held land has been intensively farmed for dairy production, harming the waterways. The farms have now been retired and plans are shaping up to develop the land in the best interests of Te Wānanga, local iwi and the environment.
What a marvellous story of collaboration, vision and strategy to build what might at first have seemed impossible.