Fonterra is a big employer within small provincial communities and the business is always looking for opportunities to work more collaboratively with tangata whenua across employment, environment and cultural development, says Manager Māori Relations and Agribusiness Anne Haira.
“Our goal isn’t to just maintain our licence to operate; our goal is to be partners in Māori development across the length of New Zealand.”
An example within the employment space is an initiative piloted in 2014 at the Lichfield site near Tokoroa where Fonterra worked in partnership with the local iwi, Raukawa, to employ three of their young people as mechanical and electrical apprentices.
This initiative has been a major focus for the last year for South Waikato Operations Manager, Sam Mikaere, who has led a variety of changes around the way Lichfield works with Raukawa.
Business Development and Relationship Manager Lana Ngawhika is impressed with the progress each of the apprentices has made in the year since their training began.
“Earlier this year, the three apprentices presented their progress back to the Board of the Raukawa Settlement Trust and what came through was the confidence and professionalism each of these individuals has developed. That is no small feat for our rangatahi (youth) and yet it was a responsibility they handled with ease,” said Mrs Ngawhika.
Raukawa has also been very generous with their support for Lichfield, coming to the site this year to help bless the new plants and surrounding services – a new experience for many on the Lichfield team who have not been part of a Māori event before.
“For me as a Māori in Fonterra, I have been really excited by the level of commitment to continue growing our relationships with Māori and local iwi in particular,” says Mr Mikaere.
“We are working hard to make sure we create relationships that generate value for both iwi and Fonterra alike as we both have a deep respect for the whenua (the land) and Papatūānuku (the earth) and what she provides us all.”
Within the Waikato region, the Hautapu site has also taken on an apprentice this year in collaboration with Waikato-Tainui.
*Photo available on request