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Group of workers in high vis and hard hats

It was no accident that Dempsey Wood Civil Limited chose Waitiangi Day to launch a policy to solidify its commitment to Māori and a diverse workforce.


Dempsey Wood is a civil construction company with more than 500 employees working from offices in Auckland and Waikato, a satellite office in Warkworth, and long-term projects in Northland, Manawatū-Whanganui and Lower Hutt.

Its diverse workforce includes more than 39 different ethnicities, with 45.74 per cent identifying as ‘New Zealander’, either New Zealand Māori or New Zealand Pakeha/European. Currently, 15.7 per cent of the workforce is Māori, higher than the industry average of 12 per cent.

Nurturing that diverse workforce was the intent behind the organisation’s Tiriti Policy, launched in February this year. Social Responsibility Manager Sophia Olo-Whaanga says the policy encourages all Dempsey Wood kaimahi and the wider community to embrace and appreciate Aotearoa’s cultural diversity. It champions an equitable, inclusive and safe workplace.

“It is about respect, compassion, and engagement, honouring all people while simultaneously acknowledging the unique role of Māori as tangata whenua,” she says. “Guided by Article 3 of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, our Tiriti Policy commits Dempsey Wood to act in good faith and set the intention to ‘work together on tomorrow.’”

The Tiriti Policy was developed in consultation with several groups within Dempsey Wood, including Manaaki Tangata, its Māori-led and focused support group, senior leaders, and broader staff. It was presented to the workforce through multiple platforms, communicated both onsite and within the offices through toolbox briefings and workshops, and conveyed through email, social media, and quarterly newsletters.

The organisation’s learning management system provides an introduction to tikanga, information on engagement with Māori, and learning resources about the policy and how to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

“We hold workshops for our staff on Te Tiriti o Waitangi to ensure that our team understands the importance of upholding the partnership between tangata whenua and tangata tiriti. Critical components of these workshops include understanding how to be a good treaty partner and the consistent development of cultural competency,” says Sophia.

In order to support the policy, while also providing genuine advancement for staff, Dempsey Wood recently established Whakapuāwai, a Māori cadetship programme, to grow Māori staff into leadership roles through a te ao Māori and tikanga lens.

There has been significant support for the policy, from employees through to shareholders, with leadership promoting and supporting the initiatives.

Men with moko

Project Manager Richard Bresgi says upskilling in tikanga has positively impacted his professional relationships.

“The skills and knowledge I gained during the tikanga classes proved invaluable with my position here in Whangārei, working closely with tangata whenua on the Summerset site and developing a great working relationship. The recent announcement of our Te Tiriti policy, along with the knowledge gained from the tikanga course, means that I have the company’s backing to approach each situation with tikanga in the forefront of my thought process.”

Sophia says implementation of the policy has seen kaitiaki appointed on some sites, particularly on Waikato sites, where Dempsey Wood works in partnership with Te Riu o Waikato (TROWL) and Waikato-Tainui.


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