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Whakapuāwai collage

“The noho marae was awesome as it was soothing for my soul and I found a sense of peace while we did studies. Just being in that space was very beautiful.”   Whakapuāwai participant  


When the Whakapuāwai leadership programme launched last July at Makaurau Marae, everybody present at the powhiri knew it was something special.  A unique leadership development programme blending Māori and Pakeha leadership tools, steeped in Te Ao Māori to build awareness of self as a leader within whanau, at mahi and of self.  Dempsey Wood managers knew they had talented Māori leaders in the operational frontlines of their business –Whakapuāwai supported these leaders to reach their potential.


Course structure

  • Harnessing a growth mindset
  • Communicating effectively
  • Considering concepts of tika, pono and aroha
  • Learning about Dr Selwyn Katene’s six lessons of Māori leadership
  • Drawing on different styles of leadership

These elements all contributed to an intensive learning experience that nurtured the six graduating cadets on their leadership journey.  Central to this was an exploration of whakapapa and the sharing of pepeha at the graduation event in June of this year.  The programme also mapped to the NZ Certificate in Business (Team Leadership) at Level 3 on the NZQA framework, in partnership with Industry Training Organisation Connexis.


 “It has been a privilege for Dempsey Wood to be part of the leadership journey of our cadets. Acknowledging our internal Rangatira (leaders) that have now been given the skills to move into the next step with confidence,” says Dempsey Wood Social Responsibility Manager, Sophia Olo-Whaanga.  “Diversity is part of our identity. And offering a programme to our Māori leaders allows us to have diverse representation across the board and stay true to our values.”


What makes the work possible is funding through Te Puni Kokiri’s Cadetship Programme. It supports employers to develop, mentor and train Māori staff to grow their career pathways.   Whakapuāwai is a collaboration between Dempsey Wood, Kaiaronui Isaac Rakena, and Upskills. Each partner brings their thread to the programme and weaves together the end product inside a matauranga – Māori framework.


Outstanding results

Poipoia te kakano kia puawai  – Nurture the seed and it will blossom – this whakatauki has certainly been true of the Whakapuāwai cadets with five of the six already promoted into leadership or more senior roles, from leading hand to more senior operators in the business.   And as participant Mack Conner says, Whakapuāwai is also helping to develop other aspects of his life, not just his career.


 “It’s helping me to become a better person. The kōrero and tools I’ve taken away about growth and fixed mindsets have been awesome. What I’ve learnt can help me in a big way, and not just at work. But also at home with my whānau and socially.”

“I’m in my late fifties now and I think I could have been doing this years ago. But I chose to go down another path because life happens like that. I will take everything I can from this opportunity and use it to benefit myself and others.”


Cadets feel confident in the content, learning environment and ako present in the learning process, which included two noho marae at Makaurau.

“I strongly feel that Whakapuāwai is helping me to become the leader that I aspire to be, both at home and at work,” says cadet Wirihana Matangi.

The cadets have been noticed stepping up and leading out at Dempsey Wood Civil.

“It is heartening to see the development of these amazing people, who have fantastic leadership skills that are used for the betterment of their whanau and communities,” says Sustainability Manager Mike Dunphy.


Operations Director Simon Lunjevich agrees the positive development in the Whakapuāwai roopu is noticeable.

“The cadets have developed in different ways that the programme has challenged them personally, leading their whanau and their peers.”


Graduation day

Graduation at Makaurau Marae was a special day – with cadets, colleagues, whānau and kaiako coming together to celebrate.

As Upskills kaiako Saran Read says, “It was inspiring.  “Cadets’ growth and confidence were on full display at the Whakapuāwai graduation. So, we heard inspiring stories of life changes as a result of this programme.  As their whanau proudly watched on, we could see the role models they have become and their determination for a bright future.”


Poipoia te kakano kia puawai  – our warmest congratulations to this trailblazing group and Dempsey Wood Civil.


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About Whakapuawai

About our work with Dempsey Wood Civil

Upskills Ltd.

Address: 93 Church St, Onehunga, Auckland 1061
Free parking: 120 minutes, Gerrard Beeson Pl.
Phone: 09 622 3979