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A couple of years ago Kevin Pewhairangi and partner Kasey Brown were up in Gisborne, visiting from Wellington, where they were settled and raising their three sons.

While they were here they saw a young mum pushing her pram through the rain, and upon stopping their car to see if they could help, found out that she was walking to a pharmacy to pick up a prescription. They picked her and her child up and took her to the pharmacy, but the situation played on their minds and ended up being one of those moments that was to change the course of their lives.

Kevin, Te Whānau a Ruataupare, grew up in Tokomaru Bay and had worked in the David Moore Pharmacy attached to the old De Lautour Medical Centre in his early days of being a pharmacist. Since living away in Wellington, the De Latour Road Medical Centre had moved to become Three Rivers, and while a new bunch of doctors had started a new medical centre in its place, the pharmacy premises had remained vacant.

Kevin and Kasey, who is also a pharmacist, were well aware that the young mum they had encountered was only one of many locals without their own transport who would have been feeling the loss of a pharmacy in the neighbourhood.

The seed had been planted. In Wellington, Kevin and Kasey’s daily commutes were 1 ½ and 2 hours respectively, leaving only weekends for family time with their boys. They knew that coming home to Gisborne would enable more time with their young family. They could also see that a Maori-run pharmacy would only benefit the hapū and iwi of Te Tairāwhiti. And so it was that they became business owners just over two years ago, opening Horouta Pharmacy in the very same place Kevin had first worked as a Pharmacist.

Kasey is also a pharmacist; a Wellington-born Samoan. She specialises in clinical pharmacy and works part time at Hauora Tairāwhiti, providing back up at Horouta Pharmacy when needed. Horouta Pharmacy then is uniquely positioned as a whanau/fanau-friendly pharmacy improving access to free professional healthcare and advice in its community.

The role of a pharmacist is changing. More than just counting tablets now, pharmacies can give vaccinations and some can prescribe. Kevin understands how important pharmacy access is in ensuring that medical care and treatment are followed up with after people see their doctor and it’s particularly important to him that Māori and Pasifika people have a pharmacy that meets their needs.

Horouta has a distinctly Māori and Pasifika flavour, in fact it’s the only Māori-Samoan owned Pharmacy in the country. This means you’re more likely to find Toi Māori than glamour stuff on the walls and shelves with locally-made kete and earrings and colourful harakeke potae alongside the popular Manutuke Herbs range, which originated here in the Tairāwhiti. Customers can kōrero with the pharmacist in te reo and Kevin is working towards fluency in te reo across all of his staff.

Which brings us to another local, who has been a significant force in enabling Kevin to realise his dreams over the past two years of being a business owner.

Kevin and Kasey had started out with an accountant who specialised in pharmacies, but they weren’t local and they didn’t hear from them until their taxes were due. Then along came James Burn, who had recently started a small business himself. While he was offering accounting services, he took a very different approach to the usual ‘distant accountant’.

The starting point taken by James was to find out what Kevin and Kasey’s goals were, not just in their business, but their personal aspirations too. And so the financial plan they devised alongside James was built around them spending time with their boys and using their skills to help our people both locally and nationally.

Kevin sits on advisory groups working with Pharmac, the Ministry of Health, and providing a Māori perspective on issues such as the Covid vaccine. Kasey is the Pacific Advisor to Otago’s School of Pharmacy and Kevin is the President of the Māori Pharmacists’ Association.

James’ role as their accountant is to give them the tools to reach their goals. They get a financial report every two months and James calls up to discuss how they are going. They find his reporting easy to follow, which shows them the areas they are doing well in, and those that need attention.

Empowering staff is important to Kevin, having positive memories of being looked after and a part of the team at David Moore Pharmacy under David Moore’s mentorship and support. They aspire for their staff to be fluent in Te Reo Māori, and are currently supporting their pharmacy technician to attend reo classes to learn.

As one of only 2% of pharmacists who are Māori, Kevin is adamant that the healthcare system needs change. He visits kura kaupapa to encourage rangitahi to consider pharmacy as a career and makes an effort to be at the table on advisory groups. He knows his day to day experiences need to be represented in those spaces, often dominated by an older and retired demographic.

Meanwhile, Kevin finds James Burn a good partner when it comes to helping him to keep it real in his own business. He says that James provides a personal touch that is usually lacking when it comes to finances, and Kevin likes it that their meetings take place at James’ home. They’re doing coaching sessions to plan for the year ahead, looking at past performance and the direction they’re heading, to make sure they’re on track to meet their goals.

And when he’s not in the pharmacy, planning with James or advising on boards, Kevin is probably jamming with his band, SuperFly Killa. You can find their EP on Spotify, and surely catch them live at a gig sometime soon?! Once they’ve finished recording their next EP perhaps.. And make sure you visit Horouta Pharmacy next time you’re in the neighbourhood, for a refreshingly local experience of the pharmacy model.

Thanks to our wonderful sponsor and accountant with the mostest, JBA Accountants & Business Advisors for getting us in touch with this inspiring local business and the choice humans behind it!

Story by Leah McAneney & Sarah Cleave
Photograph by Sarah Cleave

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