On his first visit to the Whakatāne office of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in his capacity as chief executive, Te Taiurungi Jim Mather was given a maths lesson.
"Fifteen students into a 14 seater van simply doesn't go," he was told by kaimahi at the Te Tahi St site, based in the industiral area of Whakatane.
Aside from better transport options, there was also a need for more space, an upgraded computer suite and - importantly for Youth Guarantees Sport and Fitness tauira - showers.
“Sometimes I think people need to listen to us, rather than telling us what the solutions are,” says one kaimahi.
Fortunately Jim and Te Taituarā John Whaanga are in Whakatāne to listen. The visit provides an opportunity for the pair to meet staff kanohi ki te kanohi, to outline where the organisation is heading and to give kaimahi and other staff the opportunity to raise concerns.
In Whakatāne, they are told of the uncertainty kaimahi faced retaining their roles following phase two of Te Raumairanga in the takiwā. They share their fears they may lose their jobs over Christmas if they don’t get enough tauira to fill their programmes, but they also speak with passion and aroha for the wānanga.
In response, Jim says Te Raumairanga was all but complete and it was now time for TWoA to invest in its people and infrastructure.
It was also suggested changes in the last two years had seen TWoA taking a more mainstream approach.
However, John says it was important for the organisation to evolve on its own terms rather than have change imposed by the government.
"We need to protect our whakapapa but also prepare for the future," he says.
"We remain committed to whānau transformation through education and to our values of Te Aroha, Te Whakapono, Ngā Ture and Kotahitanga.”
Kaimahi also raised issues around funding anomalies between programmes, ongoing challenges around tauira recruitment, and the lack of promotional material.
The pair acknowledged the challenges with recruitment and the stress that imposed on kaimahi at the beginning of each year.
"We need to find a better way of doing it," Jim says.
One of the kaimahi seizes the opportunity to point out that there is an empty Countdown Supermarket for sale that would provide a better location for TWoA to serve their community in Whakatāne.
Following the Whakatāne visit, the pair headed to Ōpōtiki.
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