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Learning . . . Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher is taking part in a 12-month Tuia leadership development programme, mentoring former Waitaki Girls' High School head girl Irihapeta Parker-Davis. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

He’s the mentor in the relationship, but he’s learning just the same.

This year, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher has been taking part in a leadership development programme, which involves mayors from across the country selecting young Maori from their district to mentor on a one-to-one basis, to encourage and enhance leadership skills.

While Mr Kircher has been busy showing 22-year-old Irihapeta Parker-Davis the ropes as part of the Tuia programme, he has learned a thing or two himself.

“What started out as an opportunity for me to share some of my experiences with a young person to help them grow has become a mutually beneficial situation where I am learning as well,” Mr Kircher said.

“Hearing how life is for a young person these days helps so much in my role and hearing it from a young Maori person’s perspective gives it another layer of complexity.”

The programme has given the pair the opportunity to gain a deeper insight into intergenerational issues, cultural values and experiences.

“The Tuia programme reaffirms the belief that we can all learn from each other and I’m so fortunate to be in a position where I can do this,” Mr Kircher said.

Miss Parker-Davis is working as a dental assistant and plans to study dentistry at university next year.

She was nominated for the programme by former Salvation Army Employment Plus leader Joseph Cropley.

The former Waitaki Girls’ High School head girl said it had been an “eye-opening” experience.

“It’s broadened my mind in so many ways,” she said.

She has relished the opportunity to build peer networks with rangatahi (young people) from other districts on their home marae every two months, where they have discussed their community work and received leadership training over the course of the year.

“What affected me most is being privileged to share vulnerability with others without judgement; to share their lives, hear their personal struggles,” she said.

“It’s amazing to hear their challenges, what they have had to overcome, and see what they’ve done with their lives, and it gives me motivation.”

And the programme had definitely fostered political aspirations.

Those being mentored are expected to undertake a 100-hour community service project in their communities to practice new strategies and demonstrate leadership.

Miss Parker-Davis’ project focuses on dental health in Waitaki and promoting the benefits of fluoridation.