28.10.2015 : John Blyth

My story, my heritage

Beca proudly supported the Christchurch Heritage Week and we speak to John Blyth, an associate to share his heritage with us, what it means to him, and how it plays an important role in the future growth of the city.

Beca proudly supported the Christchurch Heritage Week and we speak to John Blyth, Associate - Project Management to share his heritage with us, what it means to him, and how it plays an important role in the future growth of the city.

Q1: What does heritage mean to you?

John: I think of heritage as a collection of footprints left behind by our ancestors that shape the way we view the world. My heritage roots me in aroha (love) and whanau (family) both in past and present. I see my heritage as a platform of knowledge and wisdom that was laid down by my ancestors. Their dreams and aspirations have left behind a signature – values and artefacts which I live by, build on and add value to for the future.

Q2: Where were you or your ancestors born? Where did they come from?

John: In the 1850’s a flotilla of boats left the town of Blyth in the County of Fyfe, Scotland and set off to Australia and New Zealand. By the time they reached New Zealand, only two boats were left. My father’s side can trace my heritage back to a baby born on the boat that landed in Wanganui, while my mother’s side can be traced back to the other boat which landed in Dunedin.

My whanau also traces back to a Whanganui sub tribe called Ngati Tupoho. Ngati Tupoho whakapapa (connect) to a common ancestor called Tamakehu through his three children, Hinengākau of the upper river, Tama Ūpoko, who settled in the middle reaches, and Tūpoho, associated with the lower Whanganui.

Q3: What are some projects you’ve worked on in Christchurch that have contributed to the legacy of the city?

John: When I first started working at Beca, I spent the majority of that first year travelling to Christchurch to help Christchurch City Council (CCC) recover business as a result of the damage caused by the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes. Many of their internal teams were busy on emergency management projects which left a large gap in resources for their ‘business-as-usual’ projects. I ended up running a large Beca team seconded into CCC on a programme of deliverables in the IT space.

Since then, I’ve been helping run the CCC Insurance Programme which is focused on completing engineering damage assessments and repair methodologies, and submitting and settling insurance claims for about 2500 Council buildings. Repairing and rebuilding Christchurch’s built environment through this programme will leave a lasting legacy for future generations to enjoy.

Q4: What do you want future generations living in Christchurch to experience or enjoy?

John: The future of Christchurch is really bright – no one will deny that the new city emerging is going to be a pretty unique and exciting place to live. It’s going to be modern and vibrant, and will complement the vast number of out-of-city experiences which are close-by. We need to show this to the rest of New Zealand and attract young people to live and work here.

I’d like to see it shake off its monoculturalism and add more to become a multi-faceted, diverse place that can sustain careers as well as the myriad of social, cultural and environmental experiences on offer.

Q5: What legacy do you want to leave behind?

John: I grew up close to the land and connected to nature, and have in my blood the land that sustained us and gave us a home. Our land is very important to me and a fundamental part of my Maori identity. I say “Ko Tinui aku Turangawaewae”. That is my Turangawaewae or “the place I stand with my feet”. As we become increasingly city bound, we run the risk of disconnecting ourselves as a culture from thinking of land as a source of wellbeing and nurture.

My kids don’t have that same connection to the land as I did, and I want to embed in them a sense of adventure and connection with the great outdoors. To that end, the legacy I want to leave is within my own kid’s dreams - that they can achieve anything they want, built through the confidence gained by connecting to our land.

About the Author

John Blyth

Manager - South Island Environments

John is a team and project manager, experienced in providing strategic, policy planning and environmental science services. He’s worked in both client and service provider roles, delivered a wide range of technology and business related projects and enjoys developing the relationship we have with Ngai Tahu.

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