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Māori And Pasifika Construction Students Building Education Centre For Waituna Lagoon

A new construction trades training scholarship for Māori and Pasifika students from SIT – Business Division of Te Pūkenga, will see them help to build the new Awarua Rūnaka Waituna Lagoon Education Centre this year.

The Ngā Puna Wai Programme was developed during 2022 in conjunction with Awarua Rūnaka (iwi council) to help provide a pathway for Māori and Pasifika students to learn contemporary trades and construction skills, while connecting with Māori cultural values, architecture and art. Students on the Ngā Puna Wai Programme will help build a transportable whare (house) which will be used as an Education Centre at the Awarua Rūnaka Waituna Lagoon property, allowing for local schools to visit for environmental and cultural learning.

The Ngā Puna Wai Programme is designed to engage the students with Murihiku (Southland) history, tikaka (correct procedure and custom) and mātauraka (knowledge and wisdom) Māori concepts, Māori architecture and traditional Māori art, which will be imparted with help from local Rūnaka representatives.

Students will be provided with an introduction to traditional Māori carving, with local Kaiwhakairo (carver) Te Mauri Tini training them throughout the course. The students’ mahi (work) may become part of the finished Education Centre, to enhance the architectural and cultural features of the building.

Eligible students receive funding through He Toki Construction Scholarships and the SIT Zero Fees Scheme. The He Toki scholarship provides each student with a set of high-quality hand and power tools for use on the course and during their industry work experience, which they can keep for their apprenticeship. They are also supplied with a loan laptop for the duration of the course.

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As well as gaining an understanding of the Waituna Lagoon project, its aspirations around traditional land use and education, and a hands-on introduction to traditional Māori carving, students will also meet all the expected industry criteria of a level three, pre-trade construction course.

Russell Finlay, Trades and Technology Head of Faculty at SIT, said while building the education centre, the students would learn a broad range of knowledge, practical trade and work-ready skills, helping to give them a head start for successful entry into a building apprenticeship. “This is a great Murihiku community project that will provide long-term value for all involved now and into the future,” he added.

SIT Executive Director, Daryl Haggerty, said the students may gain a real sense of satisfaction working on the project. “Their work will be directly beneficial to the community and will be used by future generations for years to come.”

The ten-month programme started on March 6th with a student and whanau information session held at SIT, and a pōhiri held at Te Rau Aroha Marae in Bluff. Students spend up to four days each week on the Ngā Puna Wai Programme at SIT, and one day each week working in industry. The programme will be completed in December this year; the whare will be transported to Waituna Lagoon by April 2024.

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