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Māori students studying

“By Māori, for Māori” is becoming a welcome catch cry throughout Aotearoa, signalling the increasing capability of communities and businesses to embrace their tino rangatiratanga. Māori are leading the planning and implementation of their own development, creating enduring solutions.

Nowhere exemplifies this philosophy better than Toi Kai Rawa, a Māori economic development agency based in Tauranga Moana that is committed to advancing the prosperity of Māori across Te Moana a Toi Bay of Plenty.


Initially piloted in 2021 in response to a commission from the Ministry for Primary Industries, it focuses on accelerating Māori into higher-paid careers within the primary industries through a kaupapa Māori-driven internship programme.

Toi Ki Tua Programme Lead Katie Hungerford says the aim is to increase the representation of Māori in the professional realms of the sector in a way that is culturally safe and mana-enhancing for the students involved.

“The programme consists of a 10-week placement, preparation wānanga, a launch event, pastoral and peer support, site tours, career one-on-ones, and a celebration hui, with whānau and Māori leaders involved wherever possible.

“Not only has it been developed through a kaupapa Maori lens, but the programme can now be utilised as a blueprint that is transportable across any industry. This is important as we collectively build the much-needed skilled workforce of the future.”

Objectives include increasing students' awareness of their cultural capital, confidence, skills for the workplace, and industry networks, through a framework of whanaungatanga (relationships), manaakitanga (caring and nurturing), and mahitahi (collaboration).

One participant, Julia Newman, described learning about plant tech as “mind blowing”.

“Seeing workplaces in person and going on tours really made me realise how many job options there are out there. I loved, after the in-person tours, having lunch and being able to have conversations with employers and sponsors.”

She adds that opportunities like Toi Ki Tua, where tikanga and whakaaro Māori are foundational, are a far cry from those given to her parents’ generation.

“For my parent’s generation growing up, it wasn’t okay to be Māori, there was shame attached to it… Meeting the other interns who are on similar, but different journeys [in reconnecting] has given me confidence in my own Māori journey.”

Two men embracing in a hongi

Since its inception, Toi Ki Tua has successfully placed 20 students in professional positions across the kiwifruit value-chain and other roles. Employers have also recognised the value of having young Māori in their organisations. Edith Sykes, Zespri International’s Chief People Officer, is emphatic in her endorsement of the programme.

“The students’ presence has been delightful. They congregate, they socialise, they connect, and there is learning that is reciprocal. It is an amazing initiative. I think the first year has exceeded our expectations.”

Surveys with participants and employers have highlighted the significant benefits experienced by both.

“Students reported increased confidence in working in a professional environment, inspiration and support from Māori leaders, increased knowledge and networks across the kiwifruit industry, and increased cultural confidence and connection,” says Katie.

“Students leave the programme feeling proud to be Māori, wanting to know more, and understanding that their unique perspective is important.”

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