"Ko te wai te toto o te whenua
Ko te whenua te toto o te tangata"

As water is the blood of the land
So the land is the blood of humanity


We began from an amazing group of 30 locals with a passion for local, nourishing, sustainably produced food. However, as we have grown, our strength has come from our ability to draw in individuals who previously did not consider themselves, foodies, greenies, or health conscious people. Everybody eats, and we believe we can bring out passion for good food in anyone we come across. 

We are using a multi-pronged approach to address the food security and food system problems, a key component of which is focusing on traditional food crops. 

Our journey began in July 2016 as the Rotorua Local Food Network.

The aim of the network was to make healthy, locally grown food affordable and accessible for our whole community, and to support sustainable, local food business & farming to thrive.

We are passionate about food. Good healthy, nutritional food that is. Why? Because our food chain is broken. The quality of our food, is seriously compromised with countless fast food outlets, processed food and food wrapped in plastic.

“Many of us today are disconnected from our food – we eat out of supermarkets and cafes and put our trust in these business to provide us with good food. Many common food production methods in use today are not sustainable long term, and the food choices we make every day can help deliver the change needed”. 
Jasmin Jackson
Nutritionist and Kai Rotorua founder



Vision, Purpose and Values

kumara basket

Our Vision

A resilient, well-nourished, well-connected community.

Our Purpose

Reconnect us to Papatuanuku through Kai.

Our Values

Health and Wellbeing
  Accessing quality, affordable nutritious food.
Community Commitment
Members working collaboratively to achieve our shared outcomes.
Curiosity, Adventurousness and Exploration
Food that is culturally appropriate and within the limits of our climate and environment.
Creativity and Ingenuity
Meaning we will work and create an ecologically and socially sustainable local food system which minimizes carbon emissions.
Passionate and fun
Comes with the work of our community and support of the people, the role that is played by everyone in creating great kai is valued.
Giving back to the richness of the soil and maintaining cultural awareness, within the limits of our climate and environment.
Be inspirational
Help educate our young to support our community and gain knowledge and understanding of food (including nutrition, growing and cooking).
Social enterprise and economic development
We support and endorse the establishment of local food businesses and social enterprises that contributes to a healthy community.

Kai Rotorua Inc

Volunteers improving the food system through indigenous kai and community participation.

For the last 30 years, Rotorua has produced meat and dairy but little else in terms of food, with the exception of one local orchard.  Food insecurity affects a large proportion of our population, with nearly a third reporting that they go without fruit and vegetables in order to pay their bills.  Māori are disproportionately affected by food insecurity; many have lost their connection with Papatūānuku and have grown up without the traditional knowledge around how to grow their own kai. 


Kai Rotorua is a volunteer-run local organisation made up of over 130 individuals and organisations. It is using a multi-pronged approach to address the food security problem including:

  • Building free veggie gardens in people’s backyards
  • Teaching children and adults how to grow traditional and staple food crops, in particular kumara and karoro, moemoe and taewa riwai.
  • Providing people with plants, not food so that they can grow the kai themselves
  • Teaching people how to cook meals using traditional ingredients and other vegetables
  • Working with local scientists at Scion, to connect students with kai using 3D printing technology as the mechanism to engage them with both kai and traditional knowledge 
  • Working towards a Living Building Challenge community food hub for Rotorua, which will house local good-food social enterprises. It will also function as a hub for education classes around gardening, cooking as well as good food businesses.


  • Kai is a significant part of Māori culture, but many have lost the connection with Papatūānuku and where their kai actually comes from.  By reconnecting whanau with Papatūānuku, Kai Rotorua has ignited an interest in healthy kai as a means of connecting people to their heritage as well as the obvious health benefits./

Key Personnel

Warren Rehu

Cat Jehly

Yumiko McGovern

Projects Lead
Te Rangikaheke Kiripatea

Kaitlyn Lamb, Jessica Lamb, Pollyanne Taare

Board Members
Ian McBride, Delia West, Tania Te Whenua, Fisher Wang, Harina Rupapera

Advisory Team
Ben Sandford, Legal.Sandford & Wall, Rotorua, Dr Hugh Jellie, Director ATA Regenerative, Carli Ebbett, DELOITTE