Building healthy homes for Northland whānau through progressive procurement

Published on Thursday, 18 November 2021

Māori business Yakas Construction has won its first government contract with Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities to build six state houses in Kaikohe.

Yakas was supported to be bid ready through a progressive procurement initiative led by Te Puni Kōkiri and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. It aims to use the Government’s annual $51.5 billion buying power to accelerate Māori businesses and provide wider social outcomes in communities.

Kerikeri business owner Martin Yakas of Ngāti Rehia says he’s driven by getting whānau into warm, dry homes in ‘the North’ where he grew up, in a region with a major housing shortage.

“Being awarded the contract with Kāinga Ora was pretty surreal. I’ve invested a lot of time in the process, so it was emotional finding out we won it. For me it’s about seeing whānau going into these houses and not living in tin sheds. Every time I see a family going into a new home I feel better,” he says.

Martin started his business with just one other employee where they worked for Northland iwi repairing houses to be weathertight. He’s now grown his team to 12, including two wahine who just started.

“Lots of these whare weren’t dry or warm, and they leaked. I’ve built the business up gradually and after getting our first shot at a new build in Kerikeri we started getting noticed for our quality and delivery on time.”

Yakas Construction went through Te Puni Kōkiri’s Progressive Procurement Capability Uplift Programme where he was mentored by Māori business Height Project Management Limited.

“It’s been a long process to tender for a Kāinga Ora contract, but it’s been good forming these relationships. I got there with help on things like accounting, procurement, and setting up our Health and Safety prequalification, which you need to show the developments are safe,” he says.

Kāinga Ora General Manager Construction and Innovation Patrick Dougherty says enabling opportunities to engage with Māori and Pasifika businesses supports the strategic outcomes of Kāinga Ora.

“Yakas Construction were successful as they put together a competitive proposal, are locally based and are respected builders with strong links to the local community. We also recognised the benefits of working with Martin because he offers significant job opportunities for local youth, and this has a knock-on effect to the Northland economy,” Patrick says.

Along with helping with the housing shortage, Martin’s other passion is working with the local high school to offer rangatahi a chance to learn building skills.

“I help out a lot of Māori youth who are heading down the wrong path and I give them a chance to upskill through apprenticeships. I’ve seen them turn themselves around into being role models after coming off the streets.

“The waiting list for houses up here is massive. It takes on another angle when Māori are seeing Māori building houses. It’s important to me we are building homes for local people that need it,” he says.

Patrick says Kāinga Ora are already busy with close to 150 homes, in various stages of feasibility, procurement and construction to be built in Northland, with more to follow.

“Supporting local contractors will play a big role in the success of delivering these homes,” he says.

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