May 7, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

WERO: One week left for teams to register for smoke-free challenge

3 min read

The next intake for the smoke-free competition ‘WERO’ closes next Tuesday 14 April. The competition, designed to bring down Maori and Pasifika smoking rates, is now in its second year, and continues to evidence significant success.

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 4.30.16 am“Maori (39%) and Pasifika (25%) smoking rates continue to be much higher than those of the general population,” says WERO’s National Manager Kathrine Clarke.

“WERO, which started as a pilot programme in Hastings in 2014, continues to evidence significant success with Maori and Pasifika. By the end of the three month competition around 35% of participants are smoke-free. This is an excellent result.”

Teams of ten compete in a three month challenge.

“The competition is very self-directed. Each team comes up with their own quit smoking programme, which typically includes an element of physical fitness and regular team catch-ups.

“Regional co-ordinators support teams in their area by linking them to local smoking cessation support services. They also keep in touch with teams throughout the three-month duration of the competition.

“Most teams also access some form of nicotine replacement therapy.”

Teams or ‘waka’ compete against one another for prize money of $5000, which is paid to their favourite charity, community group or marae project.

“The competition is essentially a peer support programme and we believe that this is the main reason for its success. Maori and Pasifika are more likely to live and circulate in smoking environments than other groups of New Zealanders. They need more support when it comes to quitting.

“Each waka develops into a small virtual smoke-free community, where individual contestants get the emotional and physical support they need to quit smoking.”

Find our more about WERO at


Maori and Pasifika smoking

In Aotearoa/New Zealand, Maori (39%) and Pasifika (25%) people have signficantly higher rates of smoking compared to the rest of the population (15%). WERO was designed as a stop smoking competition to appeal to competitive Maori and Pasifika who might be attracted to a quit and win programme with whanau and friends. Prior to this competition being run nationally it was piloted in Te Taitokerau and Hawkes’ Bay with verified quit rates at three months exceeding expectations at 36%.

Teams, or ‘waka’ of up to ten people compete in the competition which runs for three months. Waka compete against one another to win money for a designated charity, marae project or community group.

Any ten people who smoke can form a waka. Most successful waka are formed by whanau, work teams, sports clubs and groups of friends. Comptetitions run over a three month period and the waka with the most verified smokefree kaihoe (paddlers) at the end of the race are the winners.

WERO is about teams of people quitting together rather than individuals trying to do it alone.

How it works

  • Teams of then register themselves on the WERO website
  • The teams meet with one of our regional coordinators to be breath-tested with a smokelyser to confirm that everyone is a daily smoker
  • Teams identify a non-smoker to be their coach
  • Regional co-ordinators link teams to local smoking cessation support services
  • Teams develop their own quit smoking programmes which typically include physical exercise, regular meetings, and staying in touch by text
  • A ‘Who’s in Front’ poster is updated weekly so each waka can see how they are placed within their region
  • Teams are encouraged to blog with a prize of $500 for the team that blogs the most over the three month period
  • At four and weight weeks, teams undergo another smokelyser test
  • All waka have till the end of the competition to become smoke free to be in the running for the prize
  • At the end of the competition the team with the most people smoke-free wins

Regional Coordinators

WERO has 16 Regional Co-ordinators around the country. You can find their names and contact details here

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