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‘Self-belief and hard mahi’ pays off

Te Araroa and East Cape Road are special, sacred places for local people and the thousands of tourists who visit every year.

For Manaia Ngata, although he left Te Araroa to go to school in Gisborne when he was young, it’s where home is.

The 25-year-old is an assistant project manager at Gisborne-based Civil Project Solutions (CPS), a key partner in managing the delivery of the Provincial Growth Fund road upgrade programme on behalf of Gisborne District Council.

Manaia has a leading role in the $1.8m PGF upgrade of East Cape Road, an opportunity to give back to the place which has given him so much.

“When I was mucking around in Te Araroa every summer at Nan and Pap’s place as a kid, I never would’ve imagined I’d be where I am today, back here on the coast,” he said.

“Ko Whetumatarau te maunga, ko Awatere te awa, ko Whanau-a-Tuwhakairiroa te hapu, ko Hinerupe te Marae.”

At 18, he went from Gisborne Boys’ High School to Victoria University in Wellington to study for a bachelor’s degree in building science.

“It was either off to a trade early or into further education for me. My decision to go to university was a tough one, but I’m glad I saw it through,” he said.

“My first year was a huge wake-up call. I felt like I had to work twice as hard as everyone else, but I soon caught up after adjusting to that big city life.”

Shortly after graduating he was snapped up by Gisborne’s CPS and director Russell Moylan says they’re lucky to have him.

“Manaia’s one of our youngest team members and he’s got a bright future in front of him. We’ve purposely given him a chance to lead the East Cape project, he’s earned it and we’re giving him all the support he needs. He’s really stepping up and we know how much it means to him,” Mr Moylan said.

Manaia said being involved in the PGF programme was a rewarding experience and he encouraged other rangatahi to follow in his footsteps.

“University seemed a long way away from the Coast, but self-belief and hard mahi can get you anywhere. It’s all about setting your standards high, no matter what anyone says,” he said.

“It’s been really uplifting seeing the outcomes from this investment in our rohe. The Provincial Growth Fund is all about building our people up and creating new opportunities for a better future.

“I guess I’ve been one of those people. To have the chance to look after this project very close to home is one I’ll never forget.”

BACK WHERE IT BEGAN: Manaia Ngata overseeing work to improve East Coast roads. Picture supplied