Trainees rebuild garden after car crash

community project in south auckland
A much-loved community garden that was destroyed by a rogue vehicle has been restored, thanks to a group of MPTT trainees.

RāWiri Community House provides services to the Manurewa community including free drivers licence theory courses, helping people search for jobs and working with homeless people in the area.

Earlier this year, the gardens at the centre were damaged when a car went through the front fence.

Eight MPTT trainees from Manukau Institute of Technology got stuck in to help and made the project their own – with some even making artwork for the fence around the garden.

At MPTT, we encourage all our trainees to get involved with community projects. Not only is it a chance to use their skills – and learn new ones – it adds meaning to their mahi by giving back to the community.

Read more about the RāWiri project on the Stuff website.

Iani Nemani of Competenz
Iani Nemani from Competenz who helped setup this community project

Louisa Wall at Rāwiri Community House
Louisa Wall with Kirk Sargent at Rāwiri Community House

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Working together as one to achieve

No place like home

Ben Oge
A less conventional way to clock up work experience in the trades? Organise a project yourself. Ben Oge, a construction trainee at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, did just that after witnessing the plight of a single-parent family living in a run-down home in Samoa.

It’s been a full-on year for Ben Oge. Not only did he start learning a trade, he also spearheaded an initiative to restore the home of a family in need in Samoa.

The 39-year-old visited the island of Upolu early this year and felt moved to help improve the housing conditions.

“I got back home and thought, let’s stop talking about it, let’s get something happening.”

With help from friends, whānau, and Christian-based fellowship My Friendship House, Ben organised a group of 14 people to renovate and restore the home of a single mother and her four children in Upolu.

“There’s a personal connection. The house used to belong to my grandmother who has since passed on. I thought I could at least do what I can to help out.”
Community Project in Samoa
Community Project

Connecting with the homeland

The initiative, called Stewards of the Homeland, is something Ben wants to see grow. He’s already planning a second project for early 2018.

“I want to strike while the iron’s hot and keep the momentum going. Then the idea is to set up a charity to help other families in need and maybe even link trade apprenticeships to other opportunities around the Pacific.”

At its heart, Stewards of the Homeland is about not only serving families in need, but also linking New Zealand-born Pacific Islanders to their motherland to strengthen their heritage and sense of identity.

“People on our team are still buzzing about it,” says Ben. “Some of them had never been to the islands before. It’s just a hugely rewarding experience.”

“They all wanted to go over and give to others, and what they received in return was far more than they’d expected.”

community project

Community Project in Samoa

Community Project in Samoa


Taking opportunities

Ben, a New Zealand-born Samoan whose mother is from Samauga, Savai’i and his father from Lepea, Upolu, had spent years working as a designer before deciding to add construction skills to his toolbelt.

“Building’s one of those things I’ve always wanted to try out, and I thought ‘why not?’ – especially with the way construction is booming at the moment. There’s no shortage of opportunities.”

He began training at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in March and is enjoying building his skills.

“It’s been good; there’s lots to learn. I feel much more confident now, knowing what the process is in building a house. There’s been a good balance between the textbook stuff and the practical, hands-on stuff where you actually get on the tools.”

Ben, who still finds time to freelance as a designer, was grateful to get an MPTT scholarship to cover his course fees.

“It was a bit of a no-brainer really – it’s such an awesome opportunity. When I think about the trades, there are so many great opportunities. You’ve just got to grab them with both hands and go for it.”

Moving forward

With much of the first Stewards of the Homeland trip being self-funded by the team, Ben is working on ways to raise money for the group’s next mission.

He’s created a clothing brand called Parcel 59 – named after the plot of land where the first project took place – to help fund the initiative. The proceeds will fund Stewards of the Homeland’s future projects.

Once the dates of the next project have been confirmed, Ben will turn his attention towards promoting the cause.

“I’m just trying to get my head around it again. It’s about trying to balance the project with school, work and other commitments.”

For now, Ben and his team are happy to have achieved their initial goal.

“The idea of Stewards of the Homeland is to offer practical help in one home, one village – until we get to the stage where we can do a lot more,” says Ben. “Everything starts from home.”

NZMA – Constructing a better future with a nod to the past

NZMA students

NZMA Media Release – 2 October 2017

Approximately 20 NZMA Construction students were warmly welcomed onto the Marae at Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, with a traditional pōwhiri to signal the beginning of a vocational and spiritual journey. Fifteen of the participating students are recipients of the Māori and Pasifika Trades Training: Auckland (MPTT Auckland) scholarships offered by NZMA, who has recently become a member of the MPTT Auckland consortia*.

The students will be working at the marae one day a week, to put into practice the skills they are learning during their Certificate in Building Level 4 programme at NZMA. Students started the 20 week programme on 28 August, which sets them up to enter the construction industry as an apprentice or entry-level employee.

Wyllis Maihi, Chairperson of Komiti Marae Ōrākei Trust says that the building projects that students will be embarking on at the Ōrākei Marae site will provide them with valuable hands-on practical experience, where they will have the opportunity to transform an old villa into a fully functioning multiple learning space, as well as perform reinforcement work on the Wharenui.

NZMA Senior Tutor, Aaron Reid will supervise and keep a watchful eye on the young men and women, alongside Ōrākei marae tradespeople, who will act as mentors to the young tradies for the duration of the joint venture.

It was the first time on a marae for NZMA student Nita Tuiaki, 24. He said, “This is really special, it’s cool and a good experience. I’m looking forward to understanding the Māori culture, and this will be a highlight of my course.”

NZMA staff and students were warmly embraced by the Ngāti Whātua whanau at the marae. Matt Maihi, Ōrākei Marae Manager, explained the significance of the 700 year old site, and how the city grew around it.  He also reinforced the respect for the land, water and air, and reminded students to be respectful when handling the materials they would be using.

NZMA Regional Manager, Monique Le Marque said, “We are thrilled to be working with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei iwi. Gaining the hands-on experience in building, which the project offers, is integral to our students educational experience.  However, equally important is the spiritual understanding of their connection to the past whether Māori, Pasifika or any other ethnicity! The historical and cultural knowledge which Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei will impart to students will serve to enrich their knowledge, and will be a significant factor in these students becoming highly contributing citizens of New Zealand’s future workforce.”

NZMA will be monitoring the progress of the villa, and our next update will be when students are on the Ōrākai marae site, beginning the transformation.


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Habitat for Humanity Samoa 2017

A team of volunteers recently travelled to Samoa to help build and improve homes, as part of a Habitat for Humanity project from August 26 to September 2. Included in the team were Tony Laulu, Pacific advisor from Skills, along with MPTT trainees from Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) Paea Vakalahi and Andrew Leota.

Supported by MIT and Skills as well as MPTT, they helped with work including renovations, extensions and cyclone strengthening of existing homes, and building brand new homes. Find out more about the work they did and what they learned about Samoa in Tony’s account of their trip.

Looking fresh and clean at the start of work

Hot and humid

Habitat for Humanity New Zealand have a project in Samoa where volunteers are to assist in building and improving homes. The work includes cyclone strengthening existing homes, renovations of homes, extension of homes or building brand new homes.

Paea, Andrew and I were part of a wider group that went up on 26 August until 2nd September. Eight other volunteers from around NZ who were also part of the habitat build joined us. We arrived to a hot humid Samoa and we were treated with top-notch hospitality from the ADRA team who partner with Habitat for Humanity. We used the first weekend to acclimatize and get familiar with our surroundings, our team and understanding our first working week.

Stuck in

The first week we were able to get stuck in with working with the local builders in renovating a home in Lalovaea. It was hot and humid but with a lot of water and determination, we made it through each day. As the week went on the builders became more trusting of us to do more specific projects such as strapping, knocking out windows, fitting new ones, also measuring, and cutting wood. As we finished the first homes and the first week was coming to a close there was a huge sense of achievement from us but also to see the change of the home from beginning to the end was amazing.

We were able to see a side of Samoa not many tourists get to see. The day to day living of a normal Samoan family, their hospitality, the children’s knowledge of service were all experience’s Paea, Andrew and I learnt from. We were all able to have a good weekend with the group travelling to Savaii! You have not been to Samoa if you have not been to Savaii.

A feast
Great hospitality and hard but rewarding work

Honing skills

The second week was much of the same but the builds were in new locations. Andrew in this week was able to help more with the wiring of houses and advising families on correct electrical practices. There was an obvious need for his knowledge and expertise and the families we visited all were thankful for his help. He was able to show love and understanding when communicating with the local families and took his time explaining what he knows about certain important electrical procedures. He was very influential amongst the builders and families sharing his knowledge with in the electrical space.

Paea, as student in carpentry was able to get a lot more involved with the tools, cutting and measuring boards for a wall to a house. She was able to work alone in putting up a wall and frame for one of the houses. She really came out of her shell and was able to work collaboratively with the local builders to get things done quicker. She was having trouble with cutting a certain piece of wood one time, did not hesitate to ask for assistance, and quickly learnt to do it correctly. Paea was a great asset for the team.

“Going over to Samoa has changed me, because life isn’t always about money. While I was in Samoa I have learnt so many different things I haven’t learnt and seeing how Samoans work as hard as they do I have realized that life ain’t easy, it’s something that you can’t throw away, it’s a blessing. Being in Samoa has helped me see what I can do for myself and for my future. You just need to accept what you have because at the end of the day you will know that you have regret about what you have done”. Paea Vakalahi


(Left) Andrew and Paea sharing their skills. (Right) A hardworking group

Valuable life lessons

This trip for Andrew, Paea and myself all gave us our own valuable lessons. Not too much about the technical aspects of the trades but more so perspective on life, career and family. The whole habitat for humanity team came together as strangers but left as family. We are already planning a reunion!

Thank you MPTT and Skills for giving us an opportunity to give back to the Samoan people. We could not have done it without your support, belief and trust. May God bless Samoa and all those who endeavor to help build families and communities, one home at a time.

Tony Laulu
Pacific Advisor, The Skills Organisation

MPTT in Fiji with Habitat for Humanity

Fourteen of our trainees were selected to head to Fiji to build homes for families in need. Not only did they rack up practical experience, they saw first-hand how their skills can help change people’s lives.

None of this would have been possible without the generous support of the following sponsors:

CLL Service & Solutions Ltd
Clearwater Construction Ltd
Allendale Electrical & Communications Ltd
Hawkins Group Ltd
Numecon Contracting Ltd
Marin Construction Ltd
Unitec Institute of Technology
The Skills Organisation
Bill and Loreen Brehaut
Bev McConnell
Argus Fire Protection Systems Limited
KEEN Family
Public Films