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Employment, Maori development focus

More Maori involvement in economic development will be a focus of Trust Tairawhiti senior employment coordinator Alex Hawea, who is putting his Auckland experience to bear.

Alex, who started in the role at the end of 2020, hails from Tairawhiti and is of Te Whanau a Kai and Ngati Oneone descent.

The Hawea whanau has strong whakapapa connections to the region; his Ngati Oneone ancestors gifted the inner harbour area to the city, so it is fitting that Alex is now based at offices on the Esplanade near the land where his people historically had their marae.

His role is to coordinate employment for locals and he is looking forward to using his background in Maori development to make a positive difference for the community.

For the past 20 years Alex has called West Auckland home. He went to Massey High School — one of the largest schools in the country, so a big change from a school of 50 — then graduated with a Bachelors degree in Maori Development from AUT followed by post graduate diplomas in Maori Development, and Sport and Exercise.

But his roots are in Tairawhiti and it was always his plan to “come home and contribute in some way”.

“I have seen the ebbs and flows of economic development and how Maori are either marginalised or left out.

“A lot of the economic forecasts are quite positive for Tairawhiti and it's important we as Maori participate in economic development here. Being part of an economic development agency (Trust Tairawhiti) will enable me to contribute to that.”

His last role was working as a social entrepreneur at Auckland Council and this experience is proving invaluable in his new role.

“Our main goal was to work inside large organisations to find levers to pull that create social benefit for the communities that organisation is working with.

“We were looking at how we disrupt things inside Auckland Council to create a positive benefit for the people of Auckland.”

Now he is using that knowledge to improve the employment outcomes for people here.

“For example, if the port expansion is going to create 3000 new jobs, I am interested in making sure a good proportion of those new jobs will be for local people.”

Alex is focusing on local jobs that are built around people getting to above the living wage.

“Ideally they would start on the living wage of $22.15 and progress with professional development, so they become more valuable to their employer.

“We commissioned some research at Auckland Council which looked at a target wage which allowed people to live with mana and dignity — this was set at $27.50.”

One big goal at Trust Tairawhiti is to support local employers to be “great employers”.

“So that's starting with things like the living wage, career progression opportunities and full-time work. Our research tells us these are the things that result in happy employees and a reduction in transience.

“These days people have come to expect a bit more from their employers because in order to survive and thrive, you need a good employer.

“Trust Tairawhiti is working on the Workforce Development Plan which is a starting point. It provides some actions around the four sectors — civil construction, forestry, tourism, agriculture/horticulture to support businesses to be great employers.

“We also want to work with providers who train local talent, build skills and deliver programmes to be responsive to the needs of the employer as well as the employees.

“The impact of Covid has forced companies to reassess the way they do business and that's a positive.”

One of his tasks is to create a quality employment standard which can be used as a guide across all sectors.

Another is to work alongside communities that have the highest rates of unemployment, including with the Ministry of Social Development and Department of Corrections, and focus on getting people work-ready.

In his work at Auckland Council he was part of the Western Initiative, serving the people of West Auckland. The project was very successful and this model is now being rolled out across the country.

The Western Initiative was a project to support the use of Maori and Pacific-owned businesses particularly when procuring services in the construction of buildings and roads.

“The reason being is that Maori/Pacific-owned businesses tend to have around 80-90 percent Maori or Pacific employees, so every dollar we spent was going back into those communities.”

With Auckland Council as a key partner, Alex and his team worked with City Rail Link, Kainga Ora and NZ Trade and Enterprise.

“For the two years of that project being piloted we generated $45m worth of contracts for Maori and Pacific-owned businesses. A lot of that money stayed in Auckland and created new jobs there.

“Social procurement is about supporting economic growth and stability for communities that are commonly excluded. A key part of this is creating mana-enhancing employment opportunities and getting people into the workforce.”

As senior employment coordinator, it is his job now to help achieve successful employment outcomes for the people of Tairawhiti.

Alex said that while he was focused on doing positive things in his role at Trust Tairawhiti, part of the reason for moving home with his wife and four children was to address the work/life balance. The proximity to world-class surf beaches, quality Maori immersion education and affordable housing when compared to Auckland, were all factors that drew him home.

“It's important to me that my kids feel connected to where they come from.”

Workforce focus: Alex Hawea joined Trust Tairawhiti late last year as its senior employment coordinator. Picture by Paul Rickard

  1. Maree says:

    Welcome home Alex. It sure is nice to have you back here with your wife and children. So proud of you. God bless you. Love to Mum.