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Future lies in H&S

Seeing her father dedicate his life to helping others inspired Pania Kiwara to pursue a job that will also make a difference in people’s lives . . .

Pania Kiwara is one of the latest recruits to the Tairāwhiti Economic Support Package Redeployment Programme, and her role contributes to the safety of her fellow workers.

“I'm a health and safety comms adviser trainee with Advanced Tree Solutions. They have taken on a number of workers as part of the Redeployment Programme and I'm helping to support them during their training period,” says Pania.

The Redeployment Programme covers five projects across the region. The one Pania is part of is a collaboration between Eastland Group, regional lines company Eastland Network and several local tree contractors.

Working alongside senior health and safety experts, Pania is learning all aspects of the role.

“I wanted to work in a job that I feel has real importance and will give me real opportunities,” she says.

“Health and safety is an important area, whether it be at home, at work, anywhere and everywhere.”

Pania (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Pakakohe) grew up in Taranaki, lived in Perth for five years and moved to Gisborne four years ago. She has discovered her whānau connections here in Tairāwhiti.

Her biggest motivations are her Papa, her tamariki and her whānau. She credits her father, Petuere Awatere Kiwara, for being a pillar of inspiration in her life.

“He has been a Māori advocate for landowners for the past 30 years, and was a sole trader contracted under the Department of Conservation. He travels up and down the country to help our people. Seeing him give back to the community has encouraged me to want to do the same, and take on something that will make a difference, however small, in people's lives.”

Pania's previous jobs have included being a community engagement liaison for the Electoral Commission, a promotions manager, a packhouse grader, and a teacher's aide.

She's also loved spending time as a stay-at- home mum to her sons Ngarangi and Kairo.

Most recently, Pania was an eye examiner at a local optician but was made redundant due to the impact of COVID-19.

“After I was made redundant, I saw an ad looking for workers in forestry. I had a kōrero with a health and safety co-ordinator who is working with the Redeployment Programme, Eastland Network and their arborists.

“She talked about Advanced Tree Solutions and told me all about their mahi to see if I'd be interested in working for them. She then talked about the benefits of working in the health and safety space and the training opportunities that I could benefit from. I was very interested. I just knew that this is something I would be able to excel in. It's something I can use in the future.”

As a health and safety comms adviser trainee, Pania is getting involved boots and all.

“The arborists travel all around the region clearing trees from power lines, and the Redeployment Programme workers are supporting them with things like scrub clearing, chipping and foot patrols.

“I've been getting involved with all sorts of tasks as part of this project, including administration duties, updating project information and assisting with lots of different health and safety procedures. These are some of my most recent responsibilities that I've been working on, with full support and training.

“I'm also helping to check that the new workers have the correct PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Everyone plays their part to make sure it's a safe work environment, which is awesome to see.

“Every day I'm learning something new in the office or on site. I've completed the refresher course for a first aid certificate, and in the coming weeks, there will be more training courses that will benefit me and my family.”

Pania is one of many local workers who are gaining new skills, qualifications and work opportunities as part of the Tairāwhiti Economic Support Package Redeployment Programme.

The $23.755m programme is funded through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, administered by the Provincial Development Unit and overseen by Gisborne District Council.

“This programme is all about supporting people into meaningful long-term employment,” says Alice Pettigrew, Eastland Group's business development general manager.

“The on-the-job training offered by our tree contractors will last for six months and we are very optimistic that some of the participants will be offered full-time employment at the end of the programme. Everyone involved is working hard to make this a success for our region,” says Alice.

“We're proud to support the Redeployment Programme,” says Paul Brown who owns Advanced Tree Solutions.

“We've taken on 17 new workers including Pania. In the short time Pania has been with us, she has proven to be such an asset to our team. Pania has demonstrated and shown her passion to learn, grow and upskill, and we are happy to be able to help her with this.”

As for Pania, she's enjoying her work and training so much, she has decided that this is where her future lies.

“I've had to step out of my comfort zone but it has more than paid off. I enjoy communicating and I want to help make sure people understand the importance of health and safety.

“It's such an exciting journey for me. There are so many opportunities within this programme and it's really cool for the East Coast.”

On the job: Advanced Tree Solutions' health and safety comms adviser trainee Pania Kiwara. Picture by Cinema East