Maori tradesmen unite to help youth
A group of Maori tradesmen who got their start together under an old government-run Maori trades training scheme have banded together to help give another generation of Maori a hand up.
About 15 Christchurch men have started Te Kaihanga Co-operative, a company equally owned by each of the tradesmen. The co-operative has been given EQR accreditation to take on rebuild work. Many of the tradesmen are already accredited.
Co-operative member Andy Ruruku, of Ru-Build, was 17 when he moved to Christchurch from Taumarunui in 1964 to learn carpentry as part of the Maori Trades Scheme.
Most of the young men came from the North Island as teenagers and learned how to look after themselves as well as their trades while living together in the hostels.
In the 1960s and 1970s Maori were a rare sight in the Garden City. However, they became immersed in the city and found themselves becoming Cantabrians, marrying and settling down.
“It was the best thing that ever happened in our lifetime, it’s just a pity it didn’t carry on,” Ruruku said.
The government scheme was stopped in the early 1990s, but a new version has been developed by Ngai Tahu and the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology.
The co-operative hopes to take on graduates from that programme, as well as a similar course from Taumarunui, where many of the men still have strong roots.
The plan is to get more Maori running their own businesses and eventually joining the co-operative.
Having a trade was a great asset, 65-year-old Ruruku said. A former boss had encouraged him to finish his apprenticeship when he began eyeing higher-paid labouring jobs.
He told Ruruku that if he stuck it out he would start making much better money, and he was right.
That’s why it was important to get more young Maori to learn trades, and working for older Maori would mean they could be mentored and given life skills as well, Ruruku said.
Barry Baker, 60, is chairman of the co-operative’s board. He was also from Taumarunui and went through Te Kaihanga hostel a few years after Ruruku.
They chose to name the co-operative Te Kaihanga because it meant “to create”, and most of the tradesmen had stayed at that hostel.
The co-operative would allow the members to get better prices on materials and larger projects by being part of a larger network, he said.
Christchurch governance consultant Carmelle Riley was contracted by the Maori Development Ministry to help the tradesmen create the co-operative and has stayed on as a director.
“The philosophy is a really nice one and it’s really nice to be a part of,” she said.
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