Taima van der Leden (Ngāi Tahu – Ōraka-Aparima, Tūhourangi), is the first recipient of a new scholarship established by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and Agria Corporation. The first Agria-Hōaka scholarship will enable Tāima to spend 12 months studying Mandarin at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.
Twenty-year-old Taima has just completed her first year studying toward a Bachelor of Science, majoring in mathematics and physics, and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Māori and Spanish at the University of Auckland. She plans to start a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) once she returns from China, with a focus on environmental or natural resources.
Tāima was raised in Rotorua where she was immersed in Te Ao Māori from a young age, attending kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa Māori, and being involved with her several marae. Tāima and her whānau are also actively involved with the Ngāi Tahu ki Rotorua Taurahere group.
What constitutes a good day?
A good day for me is when I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do and then have time left for what I want to do. A perfect day would be to have a nice hot bath at Tokaanu after a long day skiing on Mount Ruapehu.
One thing you could not live without?
My family, friends, and delicious food — not necessarily in that order.
Who or what inspires you and why?
I’m inspired by new challenges and trying to figure out how to overcome them. I also love seeing and learning from the ways in which other people overcome their challenges.
Highlight in the last year and why?
Realising I could do things I had previously thought were too difficult. I did not study pure maths or physics in high school and I expected to be completely out of my depth at university. I soon found that with hard work and the help of some excellent tutoring, a good understanding of these subjects could be achieved.
What is your greatest extravagance?
A flash ski jacket. I was sick of being cold on the mountain.
Favourite way to chill out? Favourite place?
In the summertime, swimming at the jumping rocks on Lake Tarawera in Rotorua, and going out for dessert with friends.
Dance or wallflower?
What food could you not live without?
Mum’s roasts. Doesn’t matter what kind it is, nothing can beat them.
What meal do you cook the most?
My specialties. Slow roasted pork belly, and ginger and pistachio slice.
Definitely being awarded the Agria-Hōaka Scholarship for 2014.
Do you have an aspiration for Ngāi Tahu to achieve by 2025?
Growing up in Rotorua and attending a Kura Kaupapa Māori I took for granted being immersed in te reo. All my friends are fluent speakers of te reo, as are most of their parents. Recently I have come to realise what a gift this is, and it would be great to see all Ngāi Tahu children have the opportunity to grow up with te reo and tikanga Māori. By 2025 I would like to see initiatives such as Kotahi Mano Kāika and Ngāi Tahu Kura Reo used by thousands more Ngāi Tahu whānau. I would love to see Ngāi Tahu take a lead in providing schooling in the reo and increasing the number of Kōhanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa Māori.