National | Leadership

Downer training Māori staff for leadership roles

Downer NZ is celebrating Māori trades graduates through its Te Ara Whanake leadership programmes that aim to enhance Māori representation at all levels of business.

Downer is one of the largest service providers in the country, with employees specialising in engineering, infrastructure management and construction.

It has partnered with Te Puni Kōkiri, the Ministry of Māori Development to create leadership programmes called Te Ara Whanake which are aimed at encouraging Māori staff to advance their career in all leadership levels of the business.

The programmes have a huge commitment to te ao Māori and tikanga protocols, with training held in a marae setting. They aim to provide Māori leaders with the opportunity to embrace their heritage, while simultaneously improving their skills.

Downer chief financial officer Evan Jensen says it’s great to immerse both Māori and non-Māori employees in the world of te ao Māori, by bringing them to the marae and teaching them Treaty principles and tikanga.

He says Māori make up 20-25% of Downer’s workforce, and potentially more in some areas of the business but Māori are underrepresented in leadership positions so the company wants to promote people into senior roles.

Having more Māori representation in more industries.

‘You can run this place’

Roimata Maihi was first a graduate of Te Ara Whanake and is now a facilitator of the Māori women's programme, Wāhine Toa, as well as an award-winning foreperson. Maihi says she knows what it’s like being a Māori wāhine and a supervisor in a male-dominated environment.

“I like to awhi the wāhine, not just my mentees but the wāhine I see on site. I get really excited! I tell them, ‘you know you can do the next step, there’s more to do’. Once you're done with the tools, you jump up and step into management. You can run this place or go run your own business.”

Maihi said it’s been challenging as an urban Māori being so far from her marae but the Te Ara Whanake programmes bring together a whānau connection.

“We want everybody to be themselves because your best self is always yourself, and as a Māori wāhine, it’s beautiful seeing our reo and our tikanga woven into our mahi, I love it.”

Downer held a celebration for all programme graduates.

Rob Matete, who went through the programme himself and is now a Te Ara Whanake facilitator, says it’s an awesome day to celebrate their young Māori achievers.

“I’m overwhelmed with happiness for our Māori people, to believe that they can dream big, think big, have big aspirations and big goals because, if you don’t dream big, that’s the problem.”