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Taking Control of the Big Guns

17 Jul 2020

Taking Control of the Big Guns


Ruakirikiri (Sandy) Te Kani has always wanted to slide into the driver’s seat of bigger machinery but the opportunity just never arose . . . until now.

He figures at the age of 45 it has been a long time coming, but he is relishing the opportunity that’s arisen through his involvement in the Tairāwhiti Economic Support Package Redeployment Programme.

The man from Potaka, nearly 200km from Gisborne near the top of the East Cape, has worked a lot in the forestry industry but moved home in 2010 to look after his mother when his father died. He established a small firewood business and was driving for REAP, helping those without licences come to Gisborne to get the necessary qualifications. But when the work dried up, he registered with the Ministry of Social Development.

“I am a total greenhorn with this machinery but you can’t keep me out of them now,” he says. “I love it. I am getting more and more competent each day.” The front loader has quickly become his machine of choice.

“This course means I have more skills under my belt which leads to better opportunities,” he says. “It gives me something I can progress with.”

COVID was a “real headache” for lots of reasons but now things are settling down, so is Sandy. He already has new qualifications in first aid, traffic control – through Pro-Traffic, and wheels, tracks and rollers – through Load Out Solutions who are contracted through the Truck and Heavy Machine Operator Training Trust by the Ministry of Social Development. Sandy is already eyeing more qualifications to add to his CV.

His training is a key component of the $23.755m Tairāwhiti Economic Support Package Redeployment Programme which was established to help local workers affected by the impact of COVID-19. While initially aimed to assist displaced forestry workers, the scope has been broadened to include all affected by the virus.

The programme is funded through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, administered by the Provincial Development Unit and overseen by Gisborne District Council.

It’s a huge collaborative effort between so many, including key agencies, iwi and business partners, who are all very focussed on ensuring the 200-odd workers on the programme find new jobs. But the bigger goal is for them all to gain new skills, qualifications and exposure to the opportunity of meaningful, long term employment.