As we mark Te Rā o Waitangi (Waitangi Day), I’ve been reflecting on what it means to us here at Beca.
At Beca, our values are Partnership, Tenacity, Enjoyment and Care – the Partnership value particularly resonates for me in thinking about Te Tiriti o Waitangi and our relationship with indigenous communities in the places we consider our tūrangawaewae, or our business footprint.
Beca was founded in Aotearoa New Zealand in 1920 and has been operating in Australia for 55 years. In both geographies, our connection to indigenous communities is key to our sense of partnership. Our Australian business has made good progress towards finding ways to work in partnership with First Nations peoples. In 2022 it launched the Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan, outlining how we will work to create equal opportunity, financial security and enhance job opportunities for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples.
Over our last 100 years, Beca has been growing the connection with Māori, building our cultural competency and more recently growing a team of kaimahi Māori (Māori employees) who help our clients and project teams to better engage in te ao Māori (the Māori world), to bring better outcomes for iwi and Aotearoa.
We are by no means the only company on this journey - he waka eke noa (we’re all in this together). There are many large New Zealand and international companies who have made great strides in upskilling their people and lifting their organisation’s cultural competency. I think we are all motivated by the opportunity this has to provide better services to our clients and better outcomes to New Zealand communities and the environments we work in.
Waitangi grounds on a quieter day
In 2018 three of our kaimahi Māori (John Blyth, Genevieve Doube and Wharehuia Dixon) lit the fire that led to the creation of Te Ahi Tūtata - our Māori business team (though the seeds had been sown many years before). Te Ahi Tūtata continues to grow. We now have Kaiwhakatere (Project Navigators) based in Tāmaki Makaurau, Tauranga-Moana, Heretaunga (Hastings), Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington) and Ōtautahi (Christchurch).
One of the challenges we have been working on is how we help our New Zealand employees grow their understanding of Te Tiriti and how it impacts our work across the motu. (We know, from surveying our staff in 2022, that many lack confidence in kaupapa Māori, including New Zealand history and Te Tiriti. Our people are keen to learn more).
One conclusion we have come to is that along with any training we offer, it will be valuable for us to clearly articulate Beca’s position on Te Tiriti for the benefit of our people, clients and partners. That is the challenge we are working on, and so the public discussions about Te Tiriti and Aotearoa over the last few weeks and months is supporting our business in this important kaupapa and is strengthening discussions on the value we see in this work.
Several members of Te Ahi Tūtata were among the many New Zealanders who attended Hui-aa-motu at Tūrangawaewae Marae on January 20 in person, with the remainder of the rōpū (group) watching the event online. They tell me that the sentiment of this historic moment was overwhelmingly positive and they came away reinvigorated.
As Te Ahi Tūtata lead John Blyth points out, Te Tiriti is not just about the rights of indigenous people, it is what provides non-Māori with a place to stand in New Zealand. I agree – I think it gives everyone in Aotearoa a way to think about the rights and obligations that Te Tiriti affords all of us. It is something that we can and should be proud of.
To me, being true to our values means honouring the rights of indigenous peoples and reflecting the intent of partnership in how we operate. I firmly believe that here in Aotearoa, as we face ever more complex challenges (particularly environmental ones), there is a strong benefit in partnership approaches and in bringing world views together to look for solutions. For this reason I will continue to champion this through the work we do at Beca and the communities we touch.