Michel Manning

Michel says the primary reason for withdrawing was to be able to support their tamariki in their educational endeavours. Milly, 17, is a national-competing gymnast and has represented the country in Hawaii, Singapore and here in Aotearoa - and “these things cost”.

Michel (Ngāi Tahu, Arowhenua) has lived in Whanganui for 23 years, after meeting the love of his life and deciding to settle amongst her whanaunga. However, he was brought up in Ngāi Tahu territory, and links specifically to Te Muka.

The call from home is strong and Michel tries to make it back for trips as often as he and wife, Sanna, can. The pair are both employed as nurses at the Whanganui Hospital and, in between mahi, they have also raised their brood of four tamariki.

Now in their own fledgling adult years, Antony, Renata and Tamati have all flown the coop and are on various paths, including working in Australia and university – though they all have Whai Rawa accounts in common. The youngest, Milly, is in her last year at home now and it’s partly for her that Michel has made his first Whai Rawa withdrawal.

Michel says the primary reason for withdrawing was to be able to support their tamariki in their educational endeavours. Milly, 17, is a national-competing gymnast and has represented the country in Hawaii, Singapore and here in Aotearoa – and “these things cost”.

In 2017, Milly will also leave the nest for a gymnastics exchange in Denmark, where she will be based for a year as she furthers her experience in gymnastics and dance while travelling through Europe.

“She’s very theatrical, so I can see her in theatre. Maybe even as a stuntwoman, I think that’s what she wants to do,” Michel says of his only daughter’s career aspirations.

Because Michel recently turned 55, he and Sanna are able to give their youngest tamariki the financial support necessary for her to take the opportunities available and excel in her field.

But he hasn’t allocated all his Whai Rawa funds quite yet.

“It’s a reward for us to be able to help the kids out with tertiary studies. But it’s not all going on them!”

“We’re off abroad next year… Up until this year we were still pretty busy with the last two being at home, but now there’ll be time for us.

“Whai Rawa came at a very good time for us because at 55 you can start withdrawing from it. It was perfect timing for us to have a wee top up.

Michel and Sanna are planning a trip abroad to South America in 2017. They’ll visit Costa Rica, where Sanna’s sister lives, and squeeze in a trip to New York on the way home.

The secret to his Whai Rawa success? Michel says he joined fairly on in the piece, about eight years ago, and began by contributing just five dollars a week. As he was able, he upped the contributions to ten dollars a week, where it has stayed since then.

“It really adds up though, I was pleasantly surprised at how much it had come to,” Michel says, having done the maths on the $200 annual matched contributions, and the slowly increasing Whai Rawa annual dividend.

“Being able to access my funds from 55 gives me more autonomy over my finances, it is really positive. And it was within a week, [from withdrawal application to deposit], it appeared in my account after five days.”

Now a real advocate for the iwi-owned saving scheme, he’s determined to continue with Whai Rawa for any larger amounts of money that come his way, and will likely transfer his KiwiSaver funds over once he turns 65.

“The kids know that they’re Ngāi Tahu and they know they have Whai Rawa.”