The power of Kiwi businesses getting on the Waka 


Working together on the journey towards greater understanding of Māori language and culture will have many benefits says Tiaki Hunia, Fonterra’s General Manager Māori Strategy/Pouhere Māori.

One million New Zealanders speaking basic te reo Māori by 2040. That’s the goal set by the New Zealand Government, which is currently taking submissions on a draft Māori Language Strategy.

A lot of the recent kōrero (talk) has been around the extent to which it is taught in our kura (schools) and that’s an important debate, but there’s also a key role the business community can play.

Building Māori capability across our businesses is not only the right thing to do, it also has many benefits such as promoting more inclusive work environments, lifting employee engagement and further enhancing our Aotearoa NZ Inc brand.

One good example is New Zealand Trade and Enterprise who just last week were recognised at the 2018 Diversity NZ Awards for their programme Kia Kaha (be strong), which has seen hundreds of staff learn more about Te Ao Māori (the Māori world). It’s changing lives and helping their people be better representatives of our country.

When businesses come together it can also have a great impact. We’re joining our Wynyard Quarter neighbours next week to recognise Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week) with a number of hui (gatherings) planned.


How the business community can make a difference

The first step is getting on the Waka (canoe). It’s about starting the journey towards greater cultural awareness and respect. It’s about getting onboard rather than watching the waka make its way across the ocean from the shore.

The journey will be different for different businesses. Not everyone can send staff on Marae stays like NZTE, but there are plenty of other ways to help normalise and revitalise te reo. It might start with encouraging the use of Māori kupu (words) around the workplace, having bilingual signs, getting together for kai (food) during Mahuru Māori (Māori Language Month) and incorporating Māori values such as Whanaungatanga (connectedness).


A Māori Strategy to benefit all

One of the starting points for us at Fonterra was getting a better understanding of our own diversity through a census, which showed that if our teams in NZ were a waka of 100 people, our kaihoe (paddlers) would be made up of 13 Māori representing 19 iwi (tribes). As we collect more data over time, we’ll be able to track and monitor our progress against our diversity and inclusion goals.

We believe implementing a successful Rautaki Māori (Māori strategy) is hugely important for our people, our business and our communities. We might be a global dairy company, but NZ is a huge part of our Co-op’s beginnings and identity. So we’re continuing to build an inclusive organisation that reflects our heritage.

A big focus at the moment is promoting our new app, Te Mātāpuna, that helps us learn more about our sites, Māori culture, customs and language.

We’ve also worked with Māori language provider Te Wānanga o Aotearoa to run a successful pilot with around 30 employees involved in a nine-month te reo course. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with many saying it has not only helped them connect with the Māori culture, but also their own and others’ cultures. In 2019, we’re looking to expand the programme. 

Our Māori Strategy is also centred around building a sustainable business, including through our TIAKI Sustainability Programme, and engaging with our farmer shareholders, iwi, government and other external stakeholders. By working closely with others, we believe we’ll have better outcomes.

As we like to say at Fonterra: “He Waka eke noa, we’re all in this together.”