Skip Content
Miss Universe

It took some strong persuasion, but Bachelor of Bicultural Social Work tauira Te Ara Puketapu-Hunt is propelling herself out into the universe, and so far it’s paying off.

Last month, the 22-year-old was announced as one of 20 Miss Universe NZ finalists, and the only one from Te Tairāwhiti.

She says despite being constantly encouraged to "just give it a try" by her aunty, she eventually ran out of excuses not to.

“I felt that it was far too out of reach for myself,” she says.

“Being from a small town (Te Araroa) and coming from a Muay Thai training background, I wasn’t sure what I could possibly get out of entering, but this perspective has changed and so has my entire outlook on life.”

Since 2013, a major part of the pageant has involved an initiative called Entrepreneur Challenge, in which contestants fundraise to benefit Variety – The Children’s Charity.

So far, more than $150,000 has been raised through Miss Universe NZ and whichever entrant successfully raises the most - based on funds raised, sponsorship received and tickets sold - gets an automatic place in the Top 10.

As part of her competition strategy, Te Ara is using her Facebook page to sell Tairāwhiti t-shirts, enter a draw to win a Tā Moko session or attend a mid-winter Auction Dinner in Gisborne.

Te Ara says as well as seeking support from her Whirikōka whānau, being a contestant from a small community has its advantages, which she knows well having grown up in a family which always opened its doors to others.

It's that culture of helping others that led Te Ara to social work.

“One day my mum said to me; ‘just think about what you’re good at doing and enjoy at the same time and find a job that aligns with that,’ and so I did.

“At 18-years-old I enrolled myself into the Social Services Certificate at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa so I could eventually begin my Bachelors in Social Work. I’m now into my third year.” 

Te Ara says her study has not only taught her a lot about supporting people, it has also allowed her space to learn about herself.

“At the end of my degree, I hope to infiltrate and change the systems that are not benefitting or supporting our whānau who enter them,” she says.

“From this degree, a passion for mental health and youth has evolved and led me to my current job at Te Kuwatawata, a gateway service for mental health.”

And her caring background means she has forged strong relationships with the other 19 girls chasing the Miss Universe Crown.

“I believe I’ve made life-long friendships - each girl is unique and has their own, empowering story," she says.

"I’ve even learned things about myself that I would never have known before, both good and bad.”

And win or lose, Te Ara says it's been a worthwhile experience.

“I’ve already achieved so much. Taking out the pageant would be magical but I’m grateful that I’m on the journey in the first place. I hope by doing well in this competition, I’ll encourage others from the community to leave their comfort zone and reach for the stars.”

The Miss Universe New Zealand 2018 grand final will be at SKYCITY Theatre in Auckland on August 4. To vote for Te Ara visit http://nz.iticket.io/te-ara-hunt

 Back to news & events

Published On:

Article By:



Other Articles

  • Māori business accelerator announces 2020 cohort

    Kōkiri is pleased to announce the successful Māori-led start-ups invited to participate in the 2020 programme. Nine technology-focused start-ups from a wide range of industries such as legal services, digital language learning, agri-tech and power generation make up the new cohort.

  • 19 March, 2020

    Important updates on COVID-19 response

    The health and safety of our tauira and their whānau are paramount for Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. We're taking all necessary precautions in our wānanga to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

  • 13 March, 2020

    Ancient Māori methods for new fitness coaching programme

    The way of the warrior involved tests of fitness, agility and mental sharpness. And now these traditional methods Māori used to maintain their health and wellbeing are being offered as a pathway into the fitness coaching industry.

  • 13 March, 2020

    Mātauranga Māori and western science a winning combination

    Mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) and science have combined to help restore kaimoana stocks in Ōhiwa Harbour.