The wahine business owner fixing up East Coast roads and school lunches

Powerhouse Kat (Hubba) Kaiwai is used to digging in for her community and quickly mobilising her Ruatōria roading business to fix roads on the cyclone-ravaged East Coast. 

Published: Thursday, 15 June 2023 | Rāpare, 15 Pipiri, 2023

“You feel an obligation and a duty of service as part of the community to keep people connected,” says Hubba, owner of Tairāwhiti Contracting.

Tairāwhiti Contracting is one of 100 Māori businesses being supported through Te Puni Kōkiri and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Capability Uplift Programme this year to help them succeed in the government procurement world.

The joint-agency progressive procurement kaupapa aims to share the Government’s annual $51.5 billion buying power more equitably with Māori businesses and achieve wider social outcomes in communities.

Hubba created her business when she moved home to Ruatōria and there were no jobs – becoming the only wāhine Māori owned civil construction roading business since 2020.

Through the Capability Uplift Programme support, Hubba was able to help secure a contract to lead road repairs on State Highway 35 with another contractor.

“Securing the Hikurangi maintenance contract has definitely given whānau a sense of security and they get to look after the roads for the next five years,” Hubba says.

Surprisingly, Hubba’s other arm to her roading business is providing healthy school lunches. She picked up the contract as there was no provider in the area, and now employs a wāhine team of seven to do it.

“I got worried that the children up here, the ones that needed it, weren’t going to get a kai. I’m happy to say we’ve been able to provide 490 lunches a day to children up here on the coast,” she says.

Te Puni Kōkiri Progressive Procurement lead Kellee Koia says its rewarding supporting wāhine Māori-owned businesses like Tairāwhiti Contractors and seeing them continue to grow and thrive.

“These women are at the forefront of these pakihi Māori and often make a community impact like Hubba. They are also more likely to employ Māori and bring a unique wahine view to business,” she says. 

Hubba, the entrepreneurial single Mum of three, says she wants to keep growing and upskilling local talent as her business grows.

“Girls can’t be what girls can’t see. I go into local colleges for the Girls with Hi-Vis programme to talk about job opportunities in the industry. I like to show women and even men that you can have the visions and dreams going forward and still have your children,” she says.


Photo caption: Katareina (Hubba) Kaiwai is an entrepreneurial solo Mum of three in Ruatōria, who runs both a roading business and provides almost 500 healthy school lunches a day to East Coast schools. Photo by James Rua, The Hood & Co.