Mere Joslyn Whaanga

Ngāti Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Kahungunu

Mere Whaanga was born in Wairoa and grew up on a sheep station near Gisborne. She was educated at Hukarere Māori Girls’ College and Gisborne Girls’ High. After leaving school she worked as a laboratory assistant and sales rep. From 1982-1992 Whaanga was a farming partner and financial manager of Taiporutu Partnership. Ffrom 1987-1988 he was an Access Training Provider in Mahia where she tutored 18 Māori women to write, illustrate and produce Kohanga Reo resources. From 1988-1991 Whaanga was owner/operator of Moko Prints and in 1993 she tutored Te Reo Māori-Paetahi part-time at Tairawhiti Polytechnic in Gisborne.

Whaanga studied Te Reo Māori Paetoru at Tairawhiti Polytechnic in Gisborne from 1992-1993 and completed a graduate diploma in Māori Development in 1994 and an MPhil in Māori Studies in 1999 at Massey University. Since the early 1990s, she has been involved in various research projects. In 1990 she was commissioned to research, write, edit and publish the family history Bartlett-Mahia to Tawatapu. In 1991 she studied multimedia Australasian publishing and its potential for New Zealand bi-lingual authors at Dromkeen Children’s Book Museum in Melbourne. In 1991 she investigated advanced computer animation technology and multi-media publishing at SIGGRAPH ‘91 in Las Vegas. In 1992 she conducted a feasibility study for Māori cable TV channel following negotiation of a contract with Kapiti Cable TV.

Whaanga has written a variety of fiction and non-fiction work including children’s picture books, a family history, conference papers, online publications, poetry and reviews. She has also been actively involved in the publishing industry. In 1988 she founded and was governing Director of Mahia Publishers Ltd which published Māori language resources, family histories, bi-lingual books for children and young adults. She has been called on to judge children’s book awards. From 1993-1994 she was AIM Children’s Book Award Judge responsible for evaluating and selecting the five best New Zealand children’s books of 1994. In 1997 she was appointed NZ Post Children’s Book Award Judge for 1997-98. Whaanga has been a committee member of Te Ha, the Māori Writers’ component of Toi Māori Aotearoa and has toured with two “On the Bus” Māori writers’ tours.

Whaanga has received various literary awards including a Choysa Bursary for Children’s Writers (1988), QEII Literary Fund Incentive Grant (1991), Te Ha Award for Māori Writers (1991), a Te Waka Toi New Work Grant (2002), and a New Zealand History Research Trust Fund Award (2003). A Carved Cloak for Tahu was a finalist in 2005 Montana awards.

Whaanga writes “The bi-lingual format I use for my books is in part an expression of my belief that not only can Māori and Pakeha work together, we also complement one another.”

Along with her writing, Whaanga is also a visual artist and illustrator of books. She has contributed to various exhibitions including Book Illustrations at the NZ High Commission in Canberra in 1995; Whales at the Auckland Museum in 1996; Te Aho Tapu at Wairoa Museum in 2004, and Gifted Sands at Ruawharo Marae, Opoutama in 2005. Whaanga is a member of the Professional Historians’ Association of New Zealand/Aotearoa (PHANZA), and Te Ara Wānanga Committee of Māori scholars for Te Ara, The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand.

Biographical sources

  • Correspondence from Mere Whaanga on 16 June 2005.
  • Te Ha questionnaire.
  • Christchurch Star 15 April, 1991:15.
  • New Zealand Who’s Who Aotearoa. Ed. Alister Taylor. Vol. 1. Auckland, N.Z.: NZ Who’s Who Aotearoa, 1992: 309.
  • Whaanga-Schollum, Mere. "The Transition - Māori and Pacific Island Story Telling: From the Oral Form to the Written Word." Reading Forum N.Z.: Official Journal of the New Zealand Reading Association 3 (1990): 13-14.

    Children's literature

  • The Legend of the Seven Whales of Ngāi Tahu Matawhaiti/ Te Pakiwaitara o nga Tahora Tokowhitu a Ngāi Tahu Matawhaiti. Retold and illus. by Mere Whaanga-Schollum. Na Epanaia Whaanga I Whakamāori [Trans. Epanaia Whaanga]. Mahia, N.Z.: Mahia Publishers, 1988.
  • A bilingual text in Māori and English of seven whales who lived under the direction of a mighty Tohunga. When the youngest whale, Hikunui, is left behind one morning and the other whales return to find him, the Tohunga in a fit of anger turns them all into hills where they still remain East of Wairoa.
  • Tangaroa’s Gift/Te Koha a Tangaroa. Māori trans. Ngawini Kereru. Auckland, N.Z.: Ashton Scholastic, 1990.
  • This book was a finalist in the 1991 AIM Children’s Book Awards in the picture-book category, a finalist in the 1991 NZLA Russell Clark Award for illustration, and a finalist in the 1991 NZLA Esther Glen Award for literature.
  • Te Kooti’s Diamond/ Te Taimana a Te Kooti. Māori trans. Ngawini Kereru. Auckland, N.Z.: Ashton Scholastic, 1991. English version is rpt. in Te Ao Mārama: Contemporary Māori Writing. Comp. and ed. Witi Ihimaera. Contributing ed. Haare Williams, Irihapeti Ramsden and D. S. Long. Vol. 1: Te Whakahuatanga o Te Ao: Reflections of Reality.Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 1992. 349-351.
  • Whaanga tells the story of Te Kooti’s visitation by the Ancients who inform him that someone else would complete his work and that he must hide his diamond until it is claimed by his successor.
  • The Treaty/Te Tiriti. Nā Liz Hunkin i whakamāori [Māori trans. Liz Hunkin]. Auckland, N.Z.: Scholastic, 2003.
  • In English and te reo Māori.
  • Non-fiction

  • "The Transition - Māori And Pacific Island Story Telling: From The Oral Form To The Written Word." Reading Forum N.Z: Official Journal of the New Zealand Reading Association 3 (1990): 13-14.
  • In this paper on story-telling Whaanga-Schollum discusses the impact of her father’s story telling and his conviction, which she shares, to pass on the knowledge of Māori legends and history. She states that her writing ‘is aimed at sharing the stories [she] was told, with as many people as possible’ and that these stories must be recorded before they are lost forever. Whaanga-Schollum emphasises the bilingual and multicultural process of her writing and publishing which support her belief that ‘not only can Māori and Pakeha work together, we also complement one another.’ This paper was one of the spring Children’s Book Foundation lectures and was presented at the Aotea Centre in Auckland on 6 September 1990.
  • Bartlett: Mahia to Tawatapu. Comp. Mere Whaanga-Schollum. Mahia, N.Z.: Mahia Publishers, 1990.
  • A book of six chapters dealing with the family history of the Bartlett whanau descended from whaler William Bartlett and his Māori wife Takotohiwi and their sons Thomas and Peter. Whaanga includes whakapapa charts and an excerpt from Angela Hair’s Muriwai and Beyond concerning the settlement of Bartletts which was formerly called Tawatapu. Whaanga provides brief historical notes on significant geographical sites in the region and concludes with a copy of W. J. Phillips’ paper "Ika-Whenua: The Mauri of the Whales on Mahia Peninsula" which he read at the Sixth Science Congress of the Royal Society of New Zealand in Wellington, N.Z. in May 1947.
  • A Carved Cloak for Tahu. Auckland, N.Z.: Auckland UP, 2004.
  • Other

  • "From All My People." Te Ao Marama: Contemporary Māori Writing. Comp. and ed. Witi Ihimaera. Contributing editors Haare Williams, Irihapeti Ramsden and D. S. Long. Vol. 5. Te Torino: The Spiral. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 1996. 153-164. Rpt. in Homeland. Mānoa 9.1. Ed. Frank Stewart. Feature ed. Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan. Honolulu, HI: U of Hawai’i P, 1997. 189-191.
  • An adult novel in progress. When Keha visits her dying relative in hospital she is faced with memories of their childhood together and of the powerful presence of her deceased aunt calling for her son to be buried near her.
  • Papers/Presentations

  • Shellfish Gathering.
  • In production.
  • "The Legend of the Seven Whales." In "Younger Readers’ Section." Te Ao Hou 62 (1968): 54.
  • This poem, written while Whaanga was a Gisborne Girls’ High School student, recounts the legend from the Wairoa district of seven whales that were permitted to swim all night as long as they were home by dawn. When they failed to return home in time they were transformed into seven hills which can still be seen from the Gisborne-Wairoa highway.
  • "Painful, Powerful." Rev. of Mihipeka: Early Years, by Mihi Edwards. Listener 3 Sept. 1990: 110.
  • "Māori Myths In Painted Form." Rev. of Wahine Toa, by Patricia Grace and Robyn Kahukiwa. Dominion 4 May 1991: 7.
  • "Information: Access Issues." Information at Work: New Zealand Library and Information Association Conference, Queenstown 30 September - 3 October 1996: Te Mahi Panui. [Wellington, N.Z.: The Association, 1996].
  • "Cultural Policy Development and Kaupapa Māori." Second International Conf. on Cultural Policy Research. Wellington, N.Z. 2002.
  • "Telling Our Stories: Hapu Identity In Waiata, Pakiwaitara And Visual Arts." NOHANZ Conf. on ‘Know Your Place: Locating Oral History’. Auckland, 19-20 July 2003. Published in Oral History in New Zealand 15 (2003): 8-11.
  • Ngāti Rongomaiwahine, 2005. Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. <>
  • Ngāti Kahungunu, 2005, Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. <>
  • Sound recordings

  • The Legend Of The Seven Whales And Other Stories. Narr. Liane Clarke. Audiocassette. Scholastic, c. 1996.
  • Non-musical sound recording. 1 cassette: analog. Liane Clarke reads The Legend of the seven whales by Mere Whaanga; Hinepau by Gavin Bishop; Te Kooti’s diamond by Mere Whaanga, and Tangaroa’s gift by Mere Whaanga.
  • Theses

  • "Development of Bicultural Policy for the Auckland Museum." Mphil thesis Massey U, 1999.


  • "Auckland Museum Announces Appointment Of The Position Of Manager Iwi Values." Te Māori News 4.14 (July 1995): 11.
  • Carroll, Penny. "Managing Vital Values." New Zealand Herald 6 Jan. 1996.
  • Christchurch Star15 Apr. 1991: 15.
  • Harding, Grant. "Mahia Storytellers Go It Alone." Dominion Sunday Times 4 June 1989: 3.
  • McLeod, Marion. "The Living Hills." Listener 23 Apr. 1990: 18-20.
  • "Museum Appoints Manager Iwi Values." Pu Kaea Aug. 1995: 4.
  • "Museum Appoints Manager of Iwi Values." Kia Hiwa Ra: National Māori Newspaper 33 (Aug. 1995): 8.
  • Neville, Pam. "Business is Booming." New Zealand Woman’s Weekly 28 May 1990: 48.
  • Nichol, Ruth. "Stories in Two Languages For All the Children." Dominion Sunday Times 6 Jan. 1991: 12.
  • Packer, Ann. "Land And Stories Intertwined." Evening Post 29 Sept. 1990: 29.
  • Prickett, G. "Writer-illustrator Draws on Mahia Peninsula." N.Z. Farmer 27 June 1990.
  • Rosier, Pat. "Mahia Publishers." Broadsheet 162 (1988): 30-31.
  • Simpson, Daryll and Hinerangi Raumati. Māori Women In Business: The Issues And Trends They Face When Establishing Their Businesses. [Wellington, N.Z.]: Te Minitatanga mō ngā Wāhine, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, [1991].
  • Walsh, Kristine. "A Wairoa Woman Is Finalist In Montana Book Awards." Gisborne Herald 4 June 2005: 4.
  • Erai, Michelle, Fuli, Everdina, Irwin, Kathie and Wilcox, Lenaire. Māori Women: An Annotated Bibliography. [Wellington, N.Z.]: Michelle Erai, Everdina Fuli, Kathie Irwin and Lenaire Wilcox, 1991. 29.
  • Reviews

    A Carved Cloak
  • Andrews, Philip. "History in print." New Zealand Legacy 17.2 (2005): 19-20.
  • "Books." Mana: The Māori News Magazine for All New Zealanders 64 (June/July 2005): 91-95.
  • Joyce, Brenda. "Book Reviews." New Zealand Genealogist 36.291 (Jan./Feb. 2005): 34.
  • Tangaroa’s Gift/Te Koha a Tangaroa
  • Dunlop, Celia. "Criminal Cat." Listener 1 Oct. 1990: 112.
  • Gilderdale, Betty. "Feline Felon Back In Print." New Zealand Herald 15 Sept. 1990: 6.
  • Griffiths, George "Recent NZ Titles." Otago Daily Times 8 Sept. 1990: 23.
  • Hall, Mary. "Fiction." InfoChoice: A Buying Guide for Primary School Libraries 7 (Nov. 1990): 4.
  • Manuel, Carol. "Myths And Legends From Aotearoa." Reading Forum NZ 3 (2003): 29-32.
  • Reviews of Tangaroa’s Gift and The Legend of the Seven Whales of Ngāi Tahu Matawhaiti by Mere Whaanga-Schollum.
  • Morris, Bruce. "How Tangaroa Gave The Paua Its Beautiful Shell." Dominion 6 Oct. 1990.
  • Packer, Ann. "Colourful Saga Of Tangaroa’s Gift To A Sad And Lonely Paua." Evening Post 21 Sept. 1990: 7.
  • Poole, Fiona Farrell. "How The Paua Got Its Shell." Dominion Sunday Times 16 Sept. 1990: 13.
  • Te Kooti’s Diamond
  • Cutler, Jenny et al. "Fiction." New and Notable: Books for the Secondary School Library 9.1 (Mar. 1992): 1-6.
  • Gilderdale, Betty. "Breaking Away From Home Ties." New Zealand Herald 17 Aug. 1991: 6.
  • Hall, Mary et al. "Fiction." InfoChoice: A Buying Guide for Primary School Libraries 10 (June 1991): 2-5.
  • Packer, Ann. "Children’s Books." Evening Post 22 Mar. 1991: 7.
  • The Legend of the Seven Whales of Ngāi Tahu Matawhaiti/He Pakiwaitara o nga Tahora Tokowhitu a Ngāi Tahu Matawhaiti
  • "Book Well Received." Te Iwi o Aotearoa 14 (Oct. 1988): 12.
  • Dunlop, Celia. "Top Dog." Listener 11 June 1990: 112-113.
  • McLeod, Marion. "The Living Hills." Listener 23 Apr. 1990: 18-20.
  • Morris, Bruce. "Illustrations That Bring Piggy Tale Up To Date." Dominion 5 May 1990: 7.
  • "Non-fiction." InfoChoice: A Buying Guide for Primary School Libraries 1 (Apr. 1989): 4-8.
  • Packer, Ann. "Children’s Books: Whale Legend." Evening Post 7 Apr. 1990: 31.
  • The Treaty/Te Tiriti
  • Agnew, Trevor. "The Treaty of Waitangi." Magpies: Talking About Books For Children 18.5 (Nov. 2003): Supp. 3.