New health research unit to be based in Kaitaia

11 September 2017
Professor Peter Shepherd

The following media release was published in on Friday 8 September 2017. 

A unique health research partnership was announced today between the Moko Foundation, a Kaitaia-based organisation led by Dr Lance O’Sullivan, and the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery, one of New Zealand’s national centres of research excellence. The partnership will establish a jointly managed research unit in Kaitaia to be called Waharoa ki te Toi (The Gateway).

The Moko Foundation will provide a local base and will provide access to a range of innovative approaches to health monitoring and community links, while the Maurice Wilkins Centre will bring access to top clinical and health researchers from across New Zealand. 

Delivering healthcare where it’s most needed.

The overall aim of Waharoa ki te Toi is to tackle some of the country’s most pressing health issues such as obesity, type-2 diabetes and rheumatic fever.

Dr Lance O’Sullivan, chair of the Moko Foundation, says: “This partnership is a different way to do health research and fits well with the Moko Foundation’s vision of connecting people with opportunities for a better Aotearoa New Zealand, by building meaningful and lasting partnerships through whakawhanaunga tanaga-based approaches.”

The involvement of the Maurice Wilkins Centre, a centre of research excellence (CoRE) hosted by the University of Auckland, means the partnership can benefit from access to many of New Zealand’s best scientists and clinical researchers.

“It will allow us to target our research to an area where some of the greatest health issues lie,” says Professor Peter Shepherd, deputy director of the Maurice Wilkins Centre, who will co-lead the new research unit with Dr O’Sullivan, and is originally from Kaitaia himself.

“Usually, researchers might go to rural areas to get samples from patients and return to the city to analyse the information. However, Waharoa ki te Toi aims to deliver a permanent research presence in Kaitaia that will develop research questions relevant to the needs of those in the local community,” Professor Shepherd says. 

Read the full atricle here on