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Te hanga I te tuuaapapa moo ngaa uri whakaheke

Last week, under the gaze of one of the Tainui’s most sacred mountains, Taupiri, Waikato-Tainui signed an historic agreement with Skills, along with 10 other ITOs and the Industry Training Federation as the ITO umbrella entity.

Simon Bilton, GM Shift Innovation, signs the historic Waikato-Tainui kawenata with Waikato-Tainui CEO Donna Flavell. Photo courtesy of Waikato-Tainui
Waikato-Tainui are the iwi organisation which looks after the geographic region of Waikato and the people of the Tainui waka.

Solemn sounds of puukaaea, played by Kuia Hinewirangi Morgan, signalled the deep importance of the event at the Waikato Endowed College in Hopuhopu. Kaumatua Koro Pokaia acknowledged tipuna, the proud ancestors of the Tainui waka. As the dignitaries made their mark on the Waikato-Tainui kawenata, they entered into a world-first partnership between indigenous people and industry training bodies reaching across multiple social and commercial sectors and into every part of Aotearoa-New Zealand.

Skills played a seminal role in bringing the kawenata to fruition. Two years ago, Skills CEO, Garry Fissenden invested in the vision and recognised the value of Maori working in a Maori space. He committed Skills’ National Manager for Maori, Stuart Lawrence, to work within Waikato-Tainui to forge links and to build the relationships for an enduring partnership. This partnership now joins together all parties and forms a platform to bolster career opportunities for Waikato-Tainui’s current 72,000 registered members and for its future generations.

Wahine toa dominated the proceedings. Waikato-Tainui CEO Donna Flavell whose role oversees education, health and wellbeing, marae, social and cultural development of tribal members, spoke of the long-term goal to have more Waikato-Tainui members in employment and see a rise in the proportion of iwi members receiving the median wage or better.
Through the covenant the iwi hopes to gather critical, relevant data to help refine approaches to the careers’ market. Ms Flavell says the agreements are designed to give options to arm members of Waikato-Tainui with the skills required to stand proudly as future parents and leaders.

Tainui Group Holdings General Manager for People and Culture Leesah Murray provided a compelling business case for partnership. Tainui Group Holdings are the guardians of Waikato-Tainui’s commercial interests which in turn support the iwi’s social and cultural outcomes. With its diverse $1.2 billion net worth and a portfolio comprising residential developments of Hamilton’s Huntington Park and Rotokauri residential developments, commercial buildings such as New Zealand’s largest retail space ‘The Base’, five hotels, large shareholdings in global companies such as Waikato Milking Systems, blue chip investments in Genesis Energy and more. Perhaps the coup d’état of Waikato-Tainui’s investment vision is the 822Ha site of a logistics zone and inland port at Ruakura – forming the junction of the Auckland-Tauranga-Hamilton’s ‘golden triangle’ which promises to revolutionize import and export systems. These commercial investments are driving demand for a wider and greater skilled and professional labour force – a labour force which Waikato-Tainui would like to grow.

Industry Training Federation CEO Josh Williams described ITOs as custodians of a model of education combined with employment providing dignity of meaningful work, purpose, identity, relevance, citizenship and money. He explained that the ITO representatives came with “open hearts and open ears” to understand how iwi saw ITOs best supporting its ambitions. “We strongly support the model developing here in Waikato-Tainui that delivers not just the technical and vocational skills but looks after the whole person, in their community context.”

The Master of Ceremonies, Maria Huata, tied together the formalities, informing, entertaining and challenging. In her summation, Mrs Huata spoke of mutual benefits for all parties saying, “both the iwi and the ITOs would bring their mana to the kawenata and through the kawenata they would each leave with their mana enhanced”.

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