Kaeden doing the mahi

Kaeden doing the mahi

Kaeden Watts

Being raised between both Taumarunui and Napier, Kaeden was exposed to two different ways of living during his childhood. From a young age, Kaeden recognised that his community in Taumarunui were struggling immensely compared to that of his Napier whānau. While attending high school in Napier, he experienced the general stigma of being Māori in a predominately New Zealand-European environment. These became the stepping stones for his involvement in cultural activism today.

In 2016, Kaeden began his first semester at the University of Otago studying Geography and Environmental Management. While at university, he involved himself in numerous projects, workshops and conferences to better educate himself on how he can help make structural change for the betterment of indigenous peoples within Aotearoa.

In 2018, Kaeden worked alongside the Dunedin City Council in a project to restore toi Māori within the city of Dunedin in an effort to lift indigenous wellbeing. During the same year, he also led a project on behalf of the Otago School of Geography to introduce knowledge of Mātauranga Māori into the department, in an effort to better educate both lecturers and students of indigenous knowledge of the environment in the surrounding Otago area.

Shortly after these projects concluded, Kaeden was selected for the Te Ara Whatu 2018 Delegation that was set for COP24 in Poland. After an intense three weeks within the United Nations space, it was clear to him that this kaupapa was only scratching the surface of it’s potential. Kaeden graduated from the University of Otago in 2019.

Currently, he resides in Wellington working as a policy/research analyst for the McGuinness Institute. After a busy year helping build Te Ara Whatu, he has the privilege of being one of two tuakana for this year’s rōpū attending COP25.