What is the most important thing in the world? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

Auckland-based social enterprise Tat Upcycle has a kaupapa of supporting its community members through proactive, holistic recovery and respect for Papatuanuku Mother Earth. Started by Hone Pene and Walter Marsters, and now joined by Dalton Neho and Joe Moana, the organisation diverts waste from landfill and offers a positive pathway for those recovering from addiction.

Tat Upcycle is 100% committed to a zero waste philosophy, environmental outcomes, and a healthy, happy community.

tat-upcycle composite blog

Hone blog

Hone Pene is a founder of Tat Upcycle and also tends to the seedlings in the organisation’s nursery, Tat Community Native Nursery.

Hone, how did you begin?

On 5 June 2013 I rang my brother seeking help for my personal problems with alcohol and drug addiction. My brother Rawiri encouraged me to participate in the twelve step recovery programme of AA and NA. Since that time my journey and my life has changed: today my life – with the support of the fellowship of recovery, and the higher power of my understanding – is committed to recovery and working with and supporting other community members in their journey from addiction.

Tat Upcycle (Recovery First) is a sustainable environmental business that has come about because of our journey of recovery. We are grateful for the support from Eco Matters Trust, Auckland City Council, Henderson Massey community board, Community Waitakere, Hoani Waititi Marae and our local Iwis, Te Kawerau A Maki and Ngati Whatua, also of course the Drug Court whose participants come here doing community hours almost every day now.

Our aim is to provide meaningful work experience with an environmental focus: recovery of the people, recovery of Papatuanuku, recovery of these thrown away items that would otherwise end up in landfill for our tamariki and mokopuna to deal with in the future.

tat-upcycle blog

Time for moe full bed blog

What inspires you?

What inspires me is seeing not just the individuals who have turned their lives around through Recovery First, but also the mums and dads and children of those individuals’ whanau oranga. (Families in recovery, cool aye?)

What’s in store for the rest of 2016?

We are excited about what may happen for the rest of 2016! Tat-Upcycle will continue to develop and promote our environmental planter boxes (all made from recycled, heat treated pallets kindly donated by Saint Gobaine). We are also in korero with Housing NZ about how we may provide our eco-planter boxes to promote growing healthy kai food for whanau and families in State Housing. We’re also working with Auckland City Council on providing up-cycled furniture (i.e. work stations, meeting and lunch room tables and chairs) built from recycled, upcycled materials that would otherwise be dumped in the landfill.

Dalton 2 blog

Dalton Neho, whose working life has included carpentry and upholstery, joined Tat Upcycle last year and has added to their offer of planter boxes with his one off furniture and art creations featured on Felt, and all made from up-cycled materials. Dalton has an eye and the skills to create beauty from, well, garbage!

Dalton, how did you get into this?

Watching my dad! He had a trucking business. In the weekends he was always making things out of found stuff, rubbish I guess, and welded together bits and pieces. He made us TV cabinets, bbq tables, he built everything for us. I watched him do that and I grew up with a natural passion for making things. Tat Upcycle began by the humble pallet. I was collecting the piled up pallets on the side of the road because my sister wanted some firewood, then Hone turned up and said he was trying to start a programme for drug court participants building planter boxes from them. So we had a chat and then we started working together. I showed them what I could do and that was the beginning.

What inspires you?

Nature, I love the way a tree grows with its curves, shapes I like shapes… Also steel, I like the strength of it and the beauty because it can be so thin but so strong.

Dalton 1 blog

serenity bench seat blog

Joe 2 blog

Joe Moana is in charge of creating Tat-Upcycle’s awesome planter boxes.

Joe, how did you get into your craft?

This is new to me! I was taught by Hone and I’m now working alongside Dalton. I’m learning from him too.

What are your favourite tools?

I like the drop saw, big drills, planer, jigsaw… all the things that make noise! I don’t like the hammer, ha ha!

Joe 1 blog

kete upcycled planter blog

kono upcycled planter blog

And last but not least there’s Walter Marsters (on the left, below), the smiling operations manager, who keeps an eye on health and safety at all times. All the products created in Tat Upcycle’s workshop have to pass his stringent quality checks. He keeps the team rolling – there are a lot of laughs in the workshop with a crew that’s happy to be there every day and excited for the future.


Purchase the wonderful work of Tat Upcycle here »


tat-upcycle group blog

4 thoughts on “What is the most important thing in the world? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

  1. This is awesome! What a great initiative, a fab group of creative people, and fantastic off-the-wall ideas. LOVE the bed. I’m going to have to visit them when I’m up that way!

  2. This is so amazing, I love what you are all doing! The planter boxes are great – upcycled and they have a positive use in the community. This is definitely something that could be carried out in other centres around the country too.

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