Building cultural capability within the organisation has brought transformational change to our work with whānau, hapū and iwi. Te Pukenga Atawhai is now a nationally recognised model influencing other agencies and businesses.

DOC's Kaihautu Te Putahitanga, Director-Strategic Partnerships and Treaty, Joe Harawira believes Te Pukenga Atawhai is the most significant initiative to have an impact on our engagement with Māori. The professional development programme is based on "building cultural capability within the Department that supports the Treaty principles and our work with whānau, hapū and iwi."

Te Pukenga Atawhai wananga are held on local marae and collectively delivered by our Pou Tairangahau – cultural advisors, who are the kaitiaki (guardians) of this taonga, assisted by local kaumātua and kuia. Hui are typically four days long covering both theory and practice around Māori beliefs and values, interacting with Māori, Treaty of Waitangi, Māori systems and structures.

Participants pepeha in front of Maketu Marae, Kawhia as part of Te Pukenga Atawhai.
Participants pepeha in front of Maketu Marae, Kawhia as part of Te Pukenga Atawhai
Image: DOC

Developed by a group of our former kaupapa atawhai managers, it was introduced to the organisation in 1999 and in the last 17 years around 6,000 staff have been through the programme.

It's been recognised nationally as a great model with several Crown and other agencies putting their staff on it to see how they might adapt it for their own needs. Customers include the NZ Police, Ministry for the Environment, Air New Zealand and Meridian.

•	Joe Harawira welcomes Te Pukenga Atawhai particpants onto Motatau Marae.
Joe Harawira welcomes Te Pukenga Atawhai particpants onto Motatau Marae in Northland. More than 6,000 DOC staff have attended Te Pukenga Atawhai in the past 17 years.
Image: DOC

Joe believes Te Pukenga Atawhai initiative has made the most difference to our engagement work because it "gave notice to our employees about our responsibilities as a Crown agency to put the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi to the forefront in recognition of true partnership. I have to take my hat off to the Department for resourcing and producing a transformational change programme for the Department" says Joe.

But there were difficulties in getting it going initially and buy in from senior managers was needed around the importance of this programme to "give tools to our staff to be culturally safe in a pre and post treaty settlement space. There was a struggle in the early days to convince managers that this was part of their core work."

Joe feels the programme has brought about a growing awareness in DOC of how important the relationship is with Treaty partners in moving into the post Treaty settlement space. The team leading the integration of kaupapa Māori into our work has also been instrumental in ensuring the success of the wānanga.

"It has not been without its challenges in its formative years" says Joe, "but I see the programme as one of transformation of the mind and the heart in a culturally safe environment.

"The work of the Department in the Post treaty settlement space is where this training will come to bear with regards to recognition of mātauranga Māori, and the importance of understanding, hearing and feeling the Māori ways of knowing. We have a lot of rangers and managers whose work requires them to front up to whānau, hapū and iwi. A lot of our staff have to make informed decisions so understanding the other perspective and putting a different lens on things is important.

The challenge ahead says Joe will be around "the balancing of law and lore in the achievement of true partnership." Lore he describes as "how we act and do things is the Māori world" But says Joe "there are Acts that are holding us back at the moment" like the Wildlife Act which has major barriers for traditional weavers and artists. "How is it that we can find innovative ways of achieving something that is close to partnership to achieve positive benefits for future generations?"

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