As construction ramps up on Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway, UCOL is working with the Highway Alliance to deliver a cultural induction course to the project’s workforce and their whānau. Over the next four years, a potential 5,000 workers will be provided with the opportunity to gain a better understanding of tikanga Māori and te reo me ōna tikanga.
“This is an important aspect of working on the highway’s development, as workers may come into contact with taonga or wildlife that need relocating. A perfect example of this was the uncovering of Moa bones in March,” says Dr Bridget Percy, UCOL’s Head of School – Education. “This knowledge will help ensure the highway team understands the importance of tapu and why these objects or places are treasured. It’s about understanding the important connection iwi have to this land, and how the work they’re doing impacts those living in our region.
“The course intertwines Māori language with local history and tikanga. These are best not taught in isolation of one another but together, so we can begin to understand the world behind the words.”
The cultural induction programme was written in partnership between UCOL and Keni Barret, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Tāmaki nui-a-Rua iwi Governance Board member, and will be delivered by Tania Riwai, the Kaikokiri Te Reo & Tikanga (Language and Culture Project Lead).
The first two cohorts kicked off last week, with 40 learners involved over two classes. Similar size cohorts will begin every two weeks, for anyone in the Alliance keen to enrol. Classes are taught through a combination of face to face sessions and online support material for ten weeks. This means that in addition to their classes, workers can access the learning in their break times or at home in the evenings.
Many learners starting the programme were excited about the chance to expand their knowledge. Nick Dawe, Commercial Manager, has enrolled alongside his entire team. “It’s about respect for the culture. I want to be able to use the correct pronunciation and challenge myself to do what is right in regard to tikanga.”
Learners Marty White, Project Engineer, and Lonnie Dalzell, Owner Interface Manager at Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and member of the Te Ahu a Turanga Alliance Leadership Team, had similar comments, with Marty particularly interested in using more te reo Māori in his everyday life and at work.
Te Ahu a Turanga People, Safety and Culture Manager Mark Long says the intention to leave a legacy for the community was a driver for making the UCOL courses available to everyone on the project.
“Because we are only here for a short time while the road is being built, we want our legacy to be lasting and for the capability to stay with local people. Most of our workforce is local and so by extending this offer of training to every member of the Alliance, that knowledge can be taken home to their whānau and communities.”
Dr Percy says this is another opportunity for UCOL to partner with industry to help bring useful skills to our local workforces.
“It’s about connecting an economic project back to the community it is serving, so that the underlying purpose, ‘Who are we doing this for?’ never gets forgotten.”
It may take some time, but Kaikokiri Tania Riwai is fine with that. “Everyone is on a journey when it comes to tikanga and te reo, and wherever they’re starting from, this programme will help them grow their confidence and knowledge. In our classroom, mistakes are welcome.”
Image: Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway staff start their first day in UCOL’s te reo and tikanga course.