Strong partnership grows Māori leaders

“The best outcomes, and the ones we’re most passionate about, are around whānau and community,” says Debbie Kirby, GM HR, Transport Services, Downer NZ.

Published: Rāhina, 26 Hereturikōkā, 2019 | Monday, 26 August 2019

Downer NZ is committed to developing Māori capability and leadership to help shape a stronger New Zealand.

“It is our partnership with Te Puni Kōkiri that has given our people opportunity, and an opportunity for our business and I believe an opportunity for Aotearoa,” says Steve Killeen, Downer NZ CEO.

“You grow up on management, but the world is crying out for leadership. There is an essence in what we are doing that is creating the type of leader that the country needs.”

Downer has created a programme that acknowledges and celebrates people for who they are and what their culture is.

“Every year when we write reports to Te Puni Kōkiri, it’s around saying something like ‘we’re not exactly sure what the magic formulae is’ but we know that it’s about acknowledging and celebrating the Māori culture in a Māori environment,” says Debbie.

“It means that people feel secure to bring their whole selves to work and step up and be a leader. That’s really been the key to it and it’s gone from strength to strength.

“We have people connecting with their iwi, being role models for their whānau, going back to marae that they haven’t been to and really being a part of the community.

“They are saying I want to give back, I want to be different, I want to uphold my whakapapa and where I stand in the Māori world. And why that makes a tangible difference is because it comes back at work and it comes back in the family.

Managers at Downer identify future leaders in their business and nominate them for the Te Ara Whanake programme.

The programme uses Te Whare Tapa Whā by empowering cadets to acknowledge taha Hinengaro, taha Tinana, taha Wairua and taha Whānau as essential to their holistic wellbeing.

“I’m inspired by the people I see that have come through our programmes. When I look at Te Whare Tapa Whā, it creates rounded people that bring their whole person to work, to home, to their communities. They add more, be more, and achieve more,” says Steve.

“Downer supported me through this cadetship in 2014 by training me, upskilling me, putting me on the spot to see how I react, and also giving me the chance to prove to myself that I can lead. I am a leader,” says Robert Matete, Resource Manager Gisborne.

Robert’s life hasn’t been the same since completing Te Ara Whanake. “My whānau have seen a change. My children have seen dad work up the ladder from the machines into a management role. So I hope I’m inspiring to them but also to my wider whānau. Hopefully it attracts them to become leaders as well within their mahi and whatever they do.”

Robert never saw himself as a manager or a leader but now he gets to help bring through that next generation of leaders, and help them believe in themselves.

Tom and Queenie Rudolph are husband and wife with three young children. They both work in Gisborne and have been identified as future leaders.

“The opportunity to move up on the ladder to management feels like a good step up in my career and will help me keep going further,” says Tom Rudolph, Grader Operator (Ngāpuhi).

“He’s that manager that I look up to, I want to follow in his footsteps. You walk into his office and you see all his certificates on the wall. I’d be proud if I had all that so it’s really inspiring.”

“This opportunity for me means that I can possibly go into management, which is not really somewhere I would see myself usually. I’m excited,” says Queenie Rudolph, Contract Administrator (Ngāti Ue Pohatu).

“I’m just so grateful to be here because I can see myself growing. So it’s a whole new experience for me, and I’m really grateful for the opportunity. It’s eye opening for me and gives me a little bit of a push, and some faith for myself which I didn’t really have before.”

With support through the Te Puni Kōkiri Cadetships Programme, Downer NZ has placed over 200 Māori cadets through it’s Te Ara Whanake programme and 200 in other programmes.

In 2019, Downer celebrated its five year partnership with Te Puni Kōkiri through the Cadetships Programme which supports employers to develop, mentor, train and grow Māori staff into senior roles within its organisation.