Whiti Hereaka

Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa, Tūhourangi, Tainui, Ngāti Whakaue

1978 -

Whiti Hereaka is 'a novelist, playwright, and screenwriter of Tūwharetoa and Te Arawa descent. She is also a barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand and currently works for the Ministry of Culture and Heritage. Hereaka completed a Masters in Creative Writing (Scriptwriting) at the International Institute of Modern Letters in 2002. A founding member of the theatre collective Writer’s Block, Hereaka is widely recognised as an important new voice in New Zealand theatre.

Hereaka has written and produced numerous plays for stage and radio. These include Fallow (Tawata Productions, 2005), Collective Agreement (Young and Hungry, 2005), I Ain’t Nothing But/A Glimmer in the Dark She Said (Open Book Productions for STAB 2006), Te Kaupoi (Bush Collective, 2010), For Johnny (Young and Hungry, 2011) and Rewena (Centrepoint Theatre, 2013).

She has twice been awarded the Adam Play Award for Best New Play by a Maori Playwright, winning with Te Kaupoi in 2010, and again with Rona and Rabbit on the Moon in 2011. In 2012, Hereaka received the Bruce Mason Award, a prize that annually recognises emerging New Zealand playwrights. Murray Lynch, director of Playmarket, described Hereaka’s plays as 'poetic, poignant, and wildly imaginative'. Her short film Unclaimed Luggage was awarded Best Short Film Screenplay award in the E Tuhi! Get Writing awards 2005 and produced by Kiwa Media in 2008.

In 2007 Hereaka was writer in residence at the Randell Cottage in Wellington, where she worked on her first novel, The Graphologist’s Apprentice. The book was published by Huia Publishers in 2010 and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize (Asia/Pacific region) in 2011. Reviewer Lawrence Jones called it 'immensely readable, with a vivid and economical language and a fine control of structure.'

She has held residencies at the Michael King Writers’ Centre (2012), on the Te Papa Tupu Writers Programme in Wellington (2012), and as part of the International Writing Programme at the University of Iowa (2013).

During the Michael King Writers Centre residency in 2012 she worked on the play, Rewena, which debuted at Centrepoint theatre, Palmerston North the following year. Hereaka wrote ‘I’m proud of my play Rewena, which poses tough questions about the role of motherhood in women’s lives and what it means to be ‘childfree’ or ‘childless’.’

Her second novel, Bugs, for young adult readers, was published by Huia in 2013. Bugs is set in the author’s hometown and the characters attended the same high school that she went to. Hereaka commented, ‘What’s surprised me is that a story specifically about a Māori teenager from Taupo resonates with teenagers from the United States and international readers.’

Bugs was a Young Adult Fiction finalist in the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and won the Honour award."

'A lecturer in creative writing at Massey University, she holds an MA in Creative Writing (Scriptwriting) from the International Institute of Modern Letters. She has also served as a mentor for Te Papa tupu. With Witi Ihimaera, Hereaka edited the anthology Pūrakau: Māori Myths Retold by Māori Writers (2019). She has published four novels, including Kurangaituku, an innovative feminist re-visioning of the long-maligned mythic bird woman, which won the Jan Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction at the 2022 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.'

Biographical sources

  • http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/Writers/Profiles/Hereaka,%20Whiti 15 November 2016
  • HIWA: Contemporary Māori Short Stories. Edited by Paula Morris, Consulting Editor: Darryn Joseph Auckland, NZ: Auckland University Press, 2023. 79.


  • "I am a genetic mutation." Playmarket news, n.39 (Aut 2007): 15.
  • "Olivia." Huia short stories 7. Huia Publishers, 2007.
  • The graphologist's apprentice. Wellington, N.Z.: Huia, 2010.
  • Bugs. Wellington, N.Z.: Huia, 2013.
  • "A writer's journey." Mana : the Māori news magazine for all New Zealanders n.115 (Jan 2014): 28-29.
  • Cicada. HIWA: Contemporary Māori Short Stories. Edited by Paula Morris, Consulting Editor: Darryn Joseph. Auckland, NZ: Auckland University Press, 2023. 81-85.
  • Traditional

  • Kurangaituku. Wellington, N.Z.: Huia, 2021.