Ringa Hora Workforce Development Council chair and Māori community leader recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours List

Hinerangi Edwards has become an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) in the 2022 Queen’s Birthday and Platinum Jubilee Honours. A business owner for 22 years, Hinerangi was born on a dairy farm in Hawera, where she grew up under the watchful gaze of her tūpuna maunga Taranaki. Alongside her Taranaki, Ngāruahine and Ngāti Ruanui whakapapa, she also shares whakapapa with Tainui, Te Arawa and Samoa.

Her training began here, living in a family who gave their time and aroha to their community. Her parents were actively involved in the local community and on the marae, all while running the dairy farm and raising their family. As a result, a strong set of Māori values and a sense of service instilled early in Hinerangi are acknowledged today with this Honour.

Her outstanding leadership and commitment to transforming the vocational educational system has been clearly demonstrated these last couple of years as the Workforce Development Councils (WDCs) have been stood up. Hinerangi and her eight Māori interim establishment board colleagues helped shape the six Workforce Development Councils (WDCs) during their establishment phase, laying strong foundations for the culture and capabilities needed across all Councils to live up to the aspirations set with the reforms.

In 2021, Hinerangi was appointed as the inaugural chair of Ringa Hora, the WDC dedicated to service businesses that employ around one-third of the New Zealand workforce.  Only one year in there is still much work to do as Hinerangi and the Council look to ensure that businesses, including the many small to medium-sized enterprises here in Aotearoa can access and use fit-for-purpose, highly valued training and qualifications.

As chair of Ringa Hora, Hinerangi often talks of the focus of her work. “I am working for our mokopuna, so the world they inherit from us welcomes them and the gifts they bring, and nurtures those gifts so they might flourish,” she says. Then, with an eye to the future, Hinerangi talks about the investment we need to make now.

“We want to strengthen the vocational education sector so that all those working in vocations, those who may want to work in vocations, and those who don’t know what a vocation is, can find somewhere to thrive. We want them to be honoured for who they are, see the contribution they can make to their work and community, and continue to grow.”

“We need to create systems that will enable people to be successful as they are. That includes allowing Māori to be successful as Māori, and Pacific people to be successful as Pacific people – and actually, we’re all Pacific people,” she says.

“We want to see our rangatahi, when they leave school, seeing themselves as the business owner or the business manager of these companies, small and large,” she says. “But first, we need to shine the light so they can see the pathway from where they are now to where they can be.”

“I think one of my most favourite jobs I had was as a waitress, just because of the value I was able to bring someone who might be out celebrating a birthday or a family event. Simple things I could do made a big difference to my customers. That’s really important to recognise.

“And I’d love to see more recognition that vocational training isn’t just for the trades. Our role in Ringa Hora is to help build that. And to help people get the skills and capabilities they need, to feel confident and well trained.”

This fearlessness and clarity of vision saw Hinerangi embark on her dream with her husband, Kiwa Hammond. Together they established AATEA Solutions in 2000 – the culmination of Hinerangi’s years spent travelling, training and working as a career consultant. Their business has gone from strength to strength working with public and private sector organisations bringing values from te ao Māori into workplaces to benefit both the organisation and those who work in those organisations. Their business is now situated in six locations including the centre of Kiwa’s Kahungunu takiwā.

Since founding AATEA Solutions, Hinerangi has served in various education research and facilitation roles and led AATEA’s work with Kia Takatū, a Matihiko National Teachers Readiness programme, from 2018 to 2020, assisting educators to teach and support their students with digital and technology subjects.

This project sparked a desire to ensure equitable access to digital futures in rural areas such as Te Wairoa, leading her to become a Trustee and Director of Korou Digital Trust and Agency – employing and providing rangatahi in Te Wairoa with the ability to see a future for themselves in the digital world. A future they can have without having to leave their rohe.

“So if they want to, our rangatahi can stay at home and work, live and contribute to their communities, marae, whānau. This not only keeps our rangatahi safe and connected to their whānau, but it also keeps our communities and our marae strong,” says Hinerangi.

Hinerangi’s knowledge and leadership are recognised by many through the number of boards she has sat on or led. For example, her commitment to farming and education saw the establishment of the Impact Leadership Accelerator while a member of the Agri Women’s Development Trust. Indeed, many of Hinerangi’s board appointments have led to significant shifts in focus for the betterment of their business, their people, and customers.

“Our skills shortages will not be solved overnight. The industries Ringa Hora cover have either been ‘essential’ or directly impacted by repeated operating limitations due to COVID. This has been hard for service businesses and the people within them.  Part of our challenge is to create a robust organisation that can meet the needs of people and industry. Hinerangi gently reminds us that we are working for people, as when people thrive business does too” says Kari Scrimshaw, CE of Ringa Hora.

From the board of Parininihi ki Waiototara Trust to Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, The Māori Language Commission to Poutama Trust to the Māori Economic Development Advisory Board, Hinerangi leaves her mark.

“My advice to people is often ‘don’t be limited by what you think is possible’. That’s probably good advice for us at Ringa Hora, too, as we tackle the challenges ahead.”

Guided by her tūpuna, focused on her mokopuna, we are beneficiaries of the long hours, time spent away from her family, and many miles travelled by Hinerangi.

E te mareikura, nei rā ngā mihi maioha ki a koe, ngā mihi i o mahi tika, o mahi pono, o mahi aroha ki te whenua, ki te tangata ki te ao Māori.