Powhiri Rika-Heke was born and raised in the Taitokerau region and was educated at Pakotai Māori School and James Cook High School in Manurewa. She attended Massey University in the 1970s before being employed by the Department of Social Welfare Social Work Division in Otahuhu and New Lynn. Rika-Heke underwent further study at Massey University and Palmerston North Teachers’ College. She subsequently taught in a Catholic boys’ primary school in Dunedin for two years, worked as an itinerant teacher of Māori for the Education Department, and taught at Queen’s High School in Dunedin. In 1988, she was Private Secretary to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and then briefly worked in the Equal Employment Opportunities Unit in the State Services Commission in 1989 and as Senior Policy Analyst in Education for the Department of Māori Affairs. She joined the staff of the Race Relations Conciliator as Education Adviser/Investigation Officer in Wellington before being appointed lecturer in the Department of Māori at Hamilton Teachers College. In 2001 she took up an appointment as a lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Canterbury and currently works as a Learning Leader at Alfriston College in Manukau City.
Rika-Heke’s early writing includes a number of poems and short stories which were published in the James Cook High School magazine under the name Sandra Young. She has been a member of the “Scratching the Surface” group of lesbian writers; this group was established in June 1990 at a Lesbian Writers’ Workshop facilitated by Dr Cathie Dunsford with the University of Waikato Continuing Education Department. She also has chaired Te Ha - Toi Māori Aotearoa’s committee of Māori writers.
- Interviews with Powhiri Rika-Heke, August 1992 and 7 May 2004.
- Subversive Acts: New Writings by New Zealand Women. Ed. Cathie Dunsford. Auckland, N.Z.: Penguin, 1991. 211.
- PPTA Journal 1 (1990): 19-21
- "Ripeka." Broadsheet 192 (Summer 1991/92): 16.
- "The Wind and the Trees." Sandra Young. James Cook High School Magazine 3 (1970): 49.
- "Tattoo." Broadsheet 192 (Summer 1991/92): 16. Rpt. in Spiral 7: A Collection of Lesbian Art and Writing from Aotearoa/New Zealand. Ed. Heather McPherson, Julie King, Marian Evans, and Pamela Gerrish Nunn. Wellington, N.Z.: Daphne Brasell, 1992. 166-167.
- The narrator recounts the tangi of her dead lover, a lesbian, who had to keep her lesbianism secret in order to keep her army position.
- "Grandmother." Subversive Acts: New Writings by New Zealand Women. Ed. Cathie Dunsford. Auckland, N.Z.: Penguin, 1991. 158-160.
- The young Māori narrator presents a portrait of her grandmother who lives in an embittered world of racism and snobbery. Although the grandfather readily accepts the Māori relatives of his son-in-law and visits them often, the grandmother is still ashamed that her daughter married a Māori and cuts herself of from her daughter’s in-laws. This story highlights the racism that is cloaked under the guise of respectability.
- "Māori Admire Fat Vulva." Me and Marilyn Monroe. Ed. Cathie Dunsford. Wellington, N.Z.: Daphne Brasell, 1993. 50-54.
- Rika-Heke’s main protagonist in this story, Ngakiri, is angered by Naomi Wolf’s statement in The Beauty Myth that ‘Māori admire fat vulva’. Ngakiri challenges this undocumented assertion by "a ‘white’ girl" and states that such statements ‘continue to define and re-define’ the Māori as a people and as ‘exhibits to the world’. Alongside this central discussion in the story, Ngakiri and Leah, two Māori women, are inextricably drawn together in a relationship that defies Wolf’s assertions.
- "Te Tiriti O Waitangi: An Agent Of Social Change And Its Impact On Māori Women." Ms. Magazine. No details.
- "The Australian Story." Sandra Young. James Cook High School Magazine. 3 (1970): 20-23.
- "Polynesian Club." Sandra Young. Sandra Young. James Cook High School Magazine. 3 (1970): 23.
- A National Policy for Education of Girls and Women in New Zealand. Wellington, N.Z.: Women’s Advisory Committee on Education, 1988.
- Co-authors Powhiri Rika-Heke and Terewai Grace, et al.
- Women in Conservation. Wellington, N.Z.: Dept. of Conservation, 1989.
- Co-authors Powhiri Rika-Heke and Sandra Te Hakamatua Lee-Poutini.
- "Cherishing Papatuanuku." Nga Kaitiaki 21 (Aug./Sept. 1989): 8-9.
- On conservation.
- "An Expert on Natural Medicines." Nga Kaitiaki 23 (Dec./Jan. 1989/90): 8.
- "Dismantling Institutional Racism." PPTA Journal 1 (1990): 19-21.
- Autobiographical to a degree.
- "E.S.P.: Fact or Fiction?" University of Spain, sponsored by the British Council. No details.
- Co-authors Winifred Crombie and Powhiri Rika-Heke.
- "Elizabeth Ann Wharepapa." The Book of New Zealand Women - Ko Kui Ma Te Kaupapa. Ed. Charlotte Macdonald, Merimeri Penfold and Bridget Williams. Wellington, N.Z.: Bridget Williams, 1991: 719-722. Rpt. in "Voices from the past from Te Kamo to Marie." Selwyn Paine. New Zealand Genealogist 24.221 (May/June 1993): 164-168.
- This biography of Elizabeth Wharepapa is composed of excerpts from her letters, in which she describes the struggles she faced emigrating to New Zealand and living in a cross-cultural marriage. She describes her initial meetings with Kamariera Te Hau Takiri Wharepapa whom she called Mari, when he visited London in 1863 and tells of their wedding and eventful trip to New Zealand in 1864 during which time she gave birth to their first daughter, suffered seasickness and witnessed a mutiny. On arrival in New Zealand Elizabeth and Mari live in the Mangakahia Valley where a further four daughters were born. The letters record Elizabeth’s growing sense of isolation and struggle to adjust to a community with little European contact. By 1872 she writes of strains in her relationship with Mari and by 1877 the couple were living apart.
- "Second World Margin: Indigenous Writing In Aotearoa: Don’t Tell Us Who We Are - Māori Women Define Themselves Through Their Writing." Women’s Studies Association Conference Papers 1993: "Raranga Wahine’: 14,15,16 May 1993. Auckland, N.Z.: The Women’s Studies Association, 1994. 90-102.
- "The Violin." Sandra Young. James Cook High School Magazine. 3 (1970): 48.
- "Freedom." Sandra Young. James Cook High School Magazine. 3 (1970): 48.
- "The trees are swaying in the breeze." Sandra Young. James Cook High School Magazine. 3 (1970): 48.
- "Dark shadows slowly creep." Sandra Young. James Cook High School Magazine. 3 (1970). 49.
- "Ripeka." Broadsheet 192 (Summer 1991/92): 17.
- This poem has overtones of a so-called superior culture despising an inferior indigenous culture portrayed through the interaction of two people. This unsigned poem is by Rika-Heke.
- Collins, Jane. "New Race Relations Officer." Evening Post 11 Apr. 1989.
- "Māori Show Role Model." Waikato Times 5 May 1992. No further details.
- "Women Meet To Discuss Book Of Biographies." Waikato Times 10 Dec. 1991.