Rangatahi growing in forestry with iwi trust training

September 26, 2022

A training initiative implemented by a central North Island iwi trust is taking rangatahi (youth) to new heights, three years since its launch.

Rotomā No. 1 Incorporation’s mahi is mostly dedicated to the forestry industry, but at the heart of ensuring its sustainability is a scheme to secure a skilled and dedicated future workforce and a commitment to iwi wellbeing.

The iwi trust has a clear strategic plan to assist their young people — descendants and beneficiaries of Rotomā shareholders —into employment. Bringing iwi through a silviculture (pruning and thinning) training programme is helping Rotomā to grow a solid workforce and succession plan, while proving highly successful in developing Ngāti Pikiao rangatahi.

Rotomā Kaiarahi (Career Pathway Advisor) Abe Whata (Ngāti Pikiao) is responsible for supporting their rangatahi to attain qualifications. With a Navy background, Abe joined the team in 2019 and with experience working in Te Maioha o Parekarangi Youth Justice Residence, he is driven to make a difference for rangatahi.

Before being assigned to a crew and exposed to the reality of working in a forest, all rangatahi start their training with a six-week pre-employment block course that covers first aid, nutrition, health and safety, along with site safety training.

Abe explains that pastoral care and personal development are important cornerstones of the programme.

“We take rangatahi from 16 years old. Some have left school at 13, and we need to quickly assess whether they need extra support with numeracy and literacy competency, for example.

“We teach them the skills they need to be set up for a successful career and that includes financial literacy, so they can start saving a deposit for their future home,” says Abe.

Basic work ethics and time management are supported with mentoring. Mature workers buddy up with younger learners so they can impart valuable advice from a new perspective.

Abe highlights the changes families see in their learners as they progress through the training.

“We regularly hear from whānau how proud they are of their young people when they start training; proud they are employed, earning and learning. The programme has enhanced the structural foundation of our whole community.”

Shane Kaaho (Te Arawa) is a Forestry Trainer and Assessor endorsed by industry training partner Competenz. Shane supports the rangatahi in first attaining a New Zealand Certificate in Forestry Operations, Level 3. He understands the journey many of the rangatahi are on — he followed his family into forestry 40 years ago not being able to read or write.

“I’m passionate about passing on my own experience. We achieve great outcomes. We even get the guys participating in rugby and golf. They start to learn that they are in a team, they begin to set goals, and they become their own family in the middle of the forest – they become whānau,” he says.

Shane and Abe comment on the positive change they see in the learners as they become empowered with knowledge.

“For many, the early morning starts are a shock to begin with. The need to be organised for their day ahead, along with the realisation that they have team members relying on them, can be confronting. The isolation of the forest cannot be underestimated - the theory in the course work is layered with time in the forest to engrain healthy work ethics,” says Abe.

Rangi Unuwai (Ngāti Pikiao) is a kaimahi with the forestry crew and has a promising career ahead of him. A beneficiary of Rotomā No 1, Rangi completed the training programme last year at age 18. He has a love for the forest, and since working with Rotomā, he has attained his silviculture qualification and full driving licence. Rangi has progressed to being responsible for driving the work van for his crew and running their safety meetings. He now sees first-hand the change in recruits coming through.

“Most of the new starts can’t get up in time for the van pick up, but they change. They grow up with support from the whole crew.”

Partnerships have been established with other local trade businesses which allow rangatahi, once they’ve finished the course, to move into another trade if silviculture isn’t to their liking. Partnerships with Te Waiariki Purea Trust, Oranga Tamariki and Mātua Whāngai in Rotorua have seen other young rangatahi join the programme.

Abe says there is no shortage in attracting rangatahi to join the iwi trust’s vision.

“Fifty-two rangatahi, all whānau, have completed the course. Rotomā has plans to keep developing the programme which will allow us to become independent, take care of our iwi, and stay strongly connected.”

Rotomā No. 1 Incorporation was established by the Māori Land Court in 1908 to administer nearly 7,000 acres on the shores of Lake Rotomā near Rotorua. An initial register of 207 owners has now grown to include more than 1,800 of their descendants.

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