People always come first for Ringa Hora chair

In a distinguished career that has seen her work in vocational education, moderation, and operating a professional services consultancy for 24 years, Ringa Hora chair Hinerangi Edwards has always had one value at the heart of everything. 

“People must come first,” she says. 

“Ringa Hora has KPIs (key performance indicators) that focus on the people we serve. As an organisation, we have created a culture of service to reflect what is at the corer of the Services sector. If we don’t put people first, then it’s for nothing.” 

Given her background, which includes two decades in governance, Hinerangi was a great fit to Ringa Hora’s first council since its legislation was passed in July 2021. 

Hinerangi is the youngest of eight children. Her father served on many local boards; in schools, marae, iwi and church finance committees. Her mother was a registered district nurse who served Coastal and South Taranaki. From them she learned the value of service. 

It humbles me when people tell me how my parents touched their lives. They were both such hard workers and believed in the power of education. Dad got an advanced trades certificate while milking cows, raising us, playing in a band and being on boards. Mum taught nursing at our local polytechnic as well as being a health advocate for our iwi. They gave a lot of their time to kaupapa (causes). 

As a teen, Hinerangi worked on the shop floor in a dairy, supermarket, and then as a waitress in Wellington and New Plymouth. After three years as an employment advisor, she worked with Career Services, first as an employee and later as a contractor. She later started Aatea Consultants (AATEA Solutions) with her husband, Kiwa Hammond, in 2000. 

During this time she also became involved in the vocational education sector as a national moderator for a national industry training organisation, with a focus on te reo and on Te Tiriti o Waitangi competency in the public service. 

“We agreed to work in qualification and assessment moderation because our consultancy’s core role is to support quality outcomes. Quality assurance systems and processess reassure for people that what they have in front of them has integrity. I also liked the idea that you could work and get qualified while in the workplace. Coming from a small town I liked that you could gain tertiary qualifications without always having to move away. 

“Being a moderator of assessments, you have to learn how to communicate with respect, care, and understanding.  

“I really enjoy that whole process, because it was a privilege to be party to something that’s happened between the assessor and the learner, and then to provide feedback in a way that’s mana-enhancing and also providing support for continuous improvement.” 

With her experience in careers, vocational education, and the services industry, Wairoa-based Hinerangi was later asked to chair the Interim Establishment Board for what became Muka Tangata, the Workforce Development Council for People, Food, and Fibre. 

Once that was completed, she was asked if she would put her name forward to serve on the Ringa Hora Council. She accepted for a clear reason – she wanted to make a difference. 

“A lot of very capable people work in organisations where they don’t hold a qualification. Being recognised for what you know and your applied experience can help people see their work as part of a career that’s good for them and their families. 

“I want vocational education to be innovative, reliable, and inclusive so all whānau, industries, and our environment thrive.” 

Hinerangi felt a particular responsibility to ensure Ringa Hora – or “upturned, outstretched hands” – lived up to the name gifted to it by Dr Joseph Te Rito of Ngati Kahungunu. 

So far, she’s proud of the work Ringa Hora has done to live up to its name and responsibility to industries, providers, and people. 

There is a lot of change in many industries. The name Ringa Hora to me denotes someone who has a reputation for providing what people need. If we can link with others, and help them achieve their goals, we all win. 

In 2022 Hinerangi was awarded an ONZM for services to governance, Māori and education. She accepted the award in memory of her parents, and the unseen kaimahi (workers) who make our communities and businesses strong.