Switched On Group is taking its kaimahi-staff on a journey to embrace te ao and te reo Māori, celebrating Matariki – the Māori New Year – with hākari-feasts and the launch of a gifted company karakia this July.
Chief executive Chris Huges says that Matariki (or Puanga for some iwi) is an important opportunity for the construction sector to embrace Māori culture as part of operating in Aotearoa-New Zealand.
“Matariki is a chance for us all to reflect on the year that has been, celebrate what we have achieved together, and get excited about the year to come. For us, as a whānau and now 50 percent iwi-owned business, Matariki is also about growing our cultural knowledge and skills to benefit our people and the communities we serve,” Hughes says.
This year the Group went all-out for Matariki, organising hāngī-style feasts for kaimahi across Aotearoa at eight locations from Tairāwhiti-Gisborne to Ōtautahi-Christchurch. Māori-owned and Amotai Registered businesses were prioritised to supply the kai, with Chief Operations Officer Christian Smith (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Maniapoto) going the extra mile to put down a hāngī at home with the local team in Papaioea-Palmerston North. In Ōtautahi, local kaimahi-staff took the opportunity to connect with Te Kura Whakapūmau i te Reo Tūturu ki Waitaha through team members whose tamariki attend the school. The children, aged 10-12, and their kaiako were welcomed with a mihi whakatau and shared a kapa haka performance in preparation for a national competition. As part of Switched On Group’s community contribution kaupapa, a koha was then gifted to the kapa haka rōpu-group for their upcoming trip, and additional kai was provided for the kura to share with wider whānau.
“This event is a brilliant example of how we as a business can support the Māori culture and language to flourish through local partnerships, which in turn benefit our kaimahi by providing an opportunity to learn from the next generation,” Hughes says. Matariki also marked the launch of Switched On Group’s gifted company karakia, created in partnership with Tūraukawa Bartlett (Ngāti Whātua ki Tāmaki, Ngāti Pākehā) to reflect the Group’s te reo Māori name ‘Kā te Rama’, gifted by iwi partners Ngāti Toa Rangatira. Hughes says that the new karakia are a way for the Group to begin embedding more te ao Māori practices into business-as-usual by opening and closing hui appropriately.
“This initiative is significant for our business as we continue to learn and build stronger connections with the Māori businesses and communities we interact with through our work. It’s exciting to see staff jumping on board to adopt and use our new karakia across the country, and it’s even better to see the positive reactions of our tradies, partners and clients,” Hughes says.
Ultimately, connecting to te ao Māori through events like Matariki is beneficial for Switched On Group’s people, partnerships and business opportunities, and Hughes believes organisations in the construction sector can build more effective relationships by learning about and embracing Māori culture.