Mayor to Master’s: Moko Tepania makes waves in education

The Mayor of the Far North has graduated with his Master of Education with First Class Honours in in Māori Medium Education / Te Rōpū Tohu Paerua.

19 Apr 2024

Moko Tepania (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa), Mayor of the Far North and a master’s graduate from the University of Waikato is set to make waves in the future of te ao Māori and the next generation.

Moko Tepania

Having earned his Master of Education with First Class Honours in Māori Medium Education / Te Rōpū Tohu Paerua, Moko is using his role as Mayor and teaching background to strengthen youth involvement in politics.  

Moko’s master’s dissertation, ‘He Rangahau whaihoropaki: i te ako i te reo mā te Maramataka’, investigated the teaching of te re Māori through the Māori calendar.  

The research I undertook affirmed that the maramataka is holistic and personal and is an intergenerational form of cultural knowledge transmission that we can use to excel, just as our tūpuna used it.


He has also implemented the use of the maramataka in local government, with the Far North District Council using the maramataka as a basis for their formal meetings calendar.   

This master’s reaffirms the place that indigenous knowledge systems have in Aotearoa, and I look forward to seeing the implementation and affirmation of our cultural practices across not only the educational system but also the wider public sector.


Born and raised in Te Tai Tokerau – Northland, Moko chose te reo Māori as a subject at high school, learnt and fell in love with the language.  

This led him on a pathway to become a Māori language teacher at his old high school, Pompallier Catholic College before deciding to give Māori medium education a try at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kaikohe where he’s been for the past six years.  

“I decided to go for my master’s before I decided to run for mayor but there was some overlap. I've always been passionate about education, and I bring this to the local government roles I hold as well.” 

Moko completed a Bachelor of Teaching (Secondary) and a Bachelor of Arts conjoint degree at the University of Waikato in 2014, majoring in Professional Education and Māori Language/Te Reo Māori. 

"Success is not mine alone, but that of many,” Moko says. “I have always been a proud graduate of this institution and the quality of not only the education available here but also the pastoral care, the wairua and everything in between.” 

His mentors in Te Rōpū Tohu Paerua, including Sharyn Heaton, Dr Katarina Edmonds, Dr Kīmai Tocker and Associate Dean of Māori Education, Karaitiana Tamatea, were instrumental in his academic success. 

“The whānau atmosphere that came with Te Rōpū Tohu Paerua was incredible. The atmosphere with fellow students and our lecturers made it feel like a second home and whānau support to make it possible.  

“Mayoral duties probably take up to 80 hours a week, so study had to fit in between all that.” 

The former councillor made history by becoming the youngest and first Māori mayor in Far North District history in 2022. 

Under his leadership, the council implemented a te reo Māori and tikanga policy, updated the council logo, and restored the Indigenous name of the council to Te Kanuhihera o Te Hiku o te Ika. 

Moko also distinguished himself as the first councilor to submit a council report in te re Māori and to speak only in Māori during a council meeting, which he did to celebrate Māori Language Week.  

In 2023, Moko was one of five winners of the One Young World Politician of the Year Award, celebrating young politicians who have made a positive impact on young people. The other recipients came from Nepal, Belgium, Australia and Canada.   

Related news