Here is Simon Charlett-Green (Senior Manager Projects) talking about his Te Pukenga Atawhai experience.
It is 4.30am when I awake to someone speaking in te reo. Turns out Maui is reciting his whakapapa and related stories as is the custom on some marae. I offer some feedback about his rather early start and the next morning he considerately commences his ritual at 4.50am. By the end of the week, we are all finding it quite soothing.
I am on the Te Pakira marae, just across the bridge as you enter Whakarewarewa village in Rotorua. I am here for the week with two other Air New Zealanders, Grant and Henare, and about 35 DOC staff attending Te Pukenga Atawhai. The Pukenga aims to provide DOC staff with an understanding of Maori culture, tikanga and values and the relationship of iwi and hapu to the land. It recognises that the support and assistance of local iwi is critical to the success of any conservation work and also takes note of our obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi. Practically, DOC staff need to be comfortable with marae protocols to be able to engage effectively with local iwi.
We were guided through a variety of exercises by our DOC Pou Tairangahau, who gently pushes us out of our comfort zones. There was no respite at meal times, we had to deliver a karakia and waiata, ably assisted by our Pou. Even the food presented challenges for some with kina and titi (muttonbird) on the menu. By the time we left we had all developed our own mihi and shared a personal taonga and story with our colleagues (ask Henare about that classic G-shock watch he’s wearing). We finished off the week doing some real DOC work by planting some trees in the rain at the beautiful Hamurana Springs.
This opportunity arose as part of our close relationship with DOC and links back to our Go Beyond strategy and sustainability agenda. DOC run several Pukenga a year and have recently extended invitations to Air New Zealanders. This is a great example of how we are collaborating closely and developing relationships with some of our key government and industry partners.
For me personally, I leapt at the opportunity. Originally from England, I married into a pakeha New Zealand family and have little day to day exposure to Maori language and culture beyond a couple of visits to Waitangi, the All Blacks haka and, increasingly, what we see at work. It’s very easy to live in Auckland and be mostly oblivious but I love the way Air New Zealand is embracing Maori culture and bringing it to life in many aspects of what we do (as well as also acknowledging the many other cultures that make up the Air New Zealand whanau). This is important. It is part of what makes New Zealand unique and we should do what we can to preserve it in the same way as our landscape and our native flora and fauna.
Thanks to our DOC friends for welcoming us into their whanau and to Tuhourangi Ngati Wahiao for allowing us to share their home and experience their legendary manaakitanga.
Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou ka ora ai te iwi.
Ma te wa.