Farewell but not goodbye: a new chapter for Te Hononga Akoranga COMET

Posted on 17 October 2023
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Photograph shows Mayor Wayne Brown, Councillors, Te Hononga Akoranga COMET Chair Tracy Massam and Chief Executive Susan Warren, Auckland Council Acting Chief Executive Phil Wilson and Auckland Council and Te Hononga Akoranga COMET staff acknowledging the transition of Te Hononga Akoranga COMET from a CCO to a standalone organisation.

Farewell but not goodbye: a new chapter for Te Hononga Akoranga COMET

Auckland Council has farewelled one of its council-controlled organisations, Te Hononga Akoranga COMET, as it embarks on a new chapter as a standalone organisation.

Mayor Wayne Brown commended Te Hononga Akoranga COMET for stepping away from the council and ‘going out into the real world’.

“I am impressed with how you have taken serious steps and become self-reliant. This shows your value and all the hard work you have put in over the years.

“I’m very happy to join in celebrating your long history and wish you well in your brave new world,” says the Mayor.

Te Hononga Akoranga COMET is an organisation which promotes educational outcomes in Auckland, with a focus on areas of greatest need. It was formed 24 years ago by the then Manukau City Council and has operated as a council-controlled organisation (CCO). 

The council’s Governing Body, in September, agreed to changes to the Te Hononga Akoranga COMET trust deed which will allow Te Hononga Akoranga COMET to become a fully independent charitable trust, which would end its status as a CCO. 

Councillor Alf Filipaina, a long-time supporter of Te Hononga Akoranga COMET and its outcomes, says this change will allow Te Hononga Akoranga COMET to achieve its long-term vision effectively, while its objective of improving educational outcomes will remain the same. 

“This is not goodbye,” says Cr Filipaina. “We are celebrating 24 fantastic years with te kaunihera and the mahi that Te Hononga Akoranga COMET is going to continue to do, not only in Tāmaki Makaurau but across Aotearoa, is exciting.”

Cr Filipaina also acknowledged Sir Barry Curtis, former mayor of Manukau City Council and his determination to create the organisation in the late 1990s. 

“Sir Barry recently reminded me that Te Hononga Akoranga COMET was formed because it was important that our community was looked after – our mokopuna, our tamariki and our rangatahi. 

“We acknowledge the founding chief executive Bernadine Vester, current chief executive Susan Warren, chair Tracy Massam and everyone who has served as a trustee, and all of the Te Hononga Akoranga COMET staff who have worked tirelessly for our community for the last 24 years,” says Cr Filipaina.

Te Hononga Akoranga COMET Chief Executive Susan Warren said the organisation wouldn’t exist without the support and long-term partnerships with Manukau and Auckland councils, and she expects the relationship to continue. 

“We believe that becoming an independent organisation will allow us to better serve our communities and achieve our vision and mission. 

“We are committed to working with Auckland Council and other stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with them into the future. Just because we’re no longer a CCO doesn’t mean we can’t contribute to and be part of the council’s collective efforts. 

“Once you’re part of Te Hononga Akoranga COMET, you’re always part of Te Hononga Akoranga COMET!” she says. 

Auckland Council Acting Chief Executive Phil Wilson was involved in the inception of Te Hononga Akoranga COMET during his tenure at Manukau City Council. 

“It’s lovely to reflect back after 24 years: that Te Hononga Akoranga COMET is still going, still purposeful and doing important things for a very good reason.

“The fact is, not everyone has the advantage of education to the extent that gives them a great start in life. Therefore, creating Te Hononga Akoranga COMET took leadership and insight to acknowledge what was needed. It recognised challenges with access to education, quality of the educational experience for our rangitahi and the sense we weren’t doing justice to our community. 

“Slightly unusually, the council wanted to step into that space – whether or not it was right for a council to do so. The results speak for themselves and at amalgamation (the formation of Auckland Council) we talked not about whether Te Hononga Akoranga COMET was no longer relevant but whether it might become more regionally focussed,” he says. 

Te Hononga Akoranga COMET achievements – 1999-2023

Te Hononga Akoranga COMET contributes to the council’s strategic goals and to the wellbeing of Aucklanders. Over the past 24 years this has included:

  • strengthening the skills pipeline in Auckland, mobilising Auckland employers, researchers and young people towards common goals
  • trialling innovative learning, education and skills initiatives, preparing them to succeed on their own
  • creating authentic opportunities, inside and outside classrooms, so learners of all ages can gain the skills they need to succeed.

Specific projects and numbers include:

  • 4,600 young people supported in the transition to work through their Youth Employability Programme: Licence to Work. The programme is now nationally available through Youthtown (since 2013).
  • 7,900 children and young people engaged in real-world STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) projects, investigating issues relevant to their community (since 2015), a focus on South and West Auckland.
  • 500 educators and community leaders have shared effective practice for Māori learners (since 2012).
  • 403 whānau have strengthened their babies’ brain development in the first 1,000 days through Talking Matters (since 2017), it is now a stand-alone trust.
  • education and skills data snapshots that are nationally recognised, setting the benchmark for data-driven decision making.

Future funding

Te Hononga Akoranga COMET has requested that its ratepayer funding continues to reduce incrementally for the next two years ($250,000 for 2024/25 and $150,000 for 2025/26), this is reflected in the council’s current budgets. No funding is allocated after 2025/2026. This is in recognition that Te Hononga Akoranga COMET will transition away from being a CCO.

For further information, please contact:

Jo Davidson, Corporate Communications and Media, Auckland Council or 021 331 634

Jonathan Longstaff, Project Support, Te Hononga Akoranga COMET or 027 481 7250