National | Construction

Downer Group's plans to work more with Māori

A trans-Tasman company is making progress in its endeavour to forge partnerships with Australian Indigenous and Māori communities as a part of its business strategy.

Craig West (Ngāti Apakura), the head of Downer Group New Zealand, was recently granted the title Te Whatu Rangataua for his work in leading the charge for collaboration with indigenous communities.

West reflects on his time so far as part of the engineering and construction company.

"My journey and the opportunities we've had, both in Downer and also the willingness at Downer to embrace te ao Māori, both for what that means for us as Māori but also what it means for the opportunity for the development and growth of the organisation.

It's been a really fast journey but one that has been extremely humbling," he says.

West was one of the first graduates of the Downer apprenticeship programme 18 years ago.

Engaging for mahi and whānau

He emphasises the importance of engaging with Indigenous communities.

"The ability to actually engage with our tauwera and go to their marae is empowering for them but it's also empowering for their whanau as well.

"We set out to not just create great leaders for work but actually at home with their whanau, and the communities they live in, their marae. That's really important for us, he says.

Downer has approximately 10,000 people employed, with 24% of Māori descent.

West has spearheaded numerous Māori development initiatives across the country, with the aim of fostering growth and increasing the number of Māori leaders within Downer.

Expressing his vision, he says he would like to see more Māori on decision-making tables.

More Downer leaders in future

"Personally, I'd love to see more Māori in senior leadership positions within Downer. We've grown hugely from where we were 10 years ago until now, with the number of Māori leaders increasing dramatically.

So, I want to see that continue, I want to see Downer continue to contribute to our communities and enable them to thrive," he says.

The company's research several years ago found 3% of its leaders and managers were Māori.

Through their Te Ara Whanake (Māori leadership) programme, they have increased it to 10%.

Dr Tom Roa (Ngāti Apakura Kaumātua), who works for the Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies at the University of Waikato, was also in attendance 

The Tainui leader gifted West a taonga in goodwill and well wishes for his new title within the company.   

"Ma te rangataua ra ano whai whatu, whai whakakitenga. Mā te rangataua rā ano hei tui i te iwi, i ngā tohunga ki ana wānanga me ū ia ki tana kaupapa. (The Rrangataua must pursue a vision and bring people together. He must be an expert in his field and committed to his purpose,)" he says.

West also serves as the chair of Downer's leadership advisory board, Te Korowai, which is dedicated to facilitating the success and prosperity of Māori within the company's workforce.