Enjoying a challenge

Meri Robinson from Ōnuku is proof that He Toki ki te Rika, Māori Trades Training, is not just for the young fellas. Women are increasingly taking up tools to make the most of opportunities resulting from the rebuild of Christchurch. And He Toki is a great way to get started.

The programme, created by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, CPIT and Hawkins Construction, is designed to up-skill Māori, for free, and get people into work.

Meri had two good reasons to enrol in He Toki. After 29 years working as a postal worker and at a service station, she was ready for a career change. And faced with a house that needed repairing, she thought, who better to do it? Builders she approached about an apprenticeship recommended that she complete a foundation course first and then she heard about He Toki.

Meri recently graduated from the carpentry programme and is now working in Little River. She plans to start an apprenticeship soon, but has plenty of work options in the meantime.
“He Toki is the best thing I have ever done,” she said. “I have learnt so much. Our tutors are so good – Jim Keenan is excellent and Peter McFarlane is also great. They have so much experience.”

He Toki builds on CPIT’s proud tradition of Māori trade training. Meri’s tutor, MacFarlane, plus her brother and current employer all trained through the original programme, which ran through the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

Being proactive is the way to get ahead, Meri said.
“I’m not one to sit down and wait for people to come to me. I like a challenge. I’m a 51-year-old woman who likes a challenge. Ultimately I will rebuild my own home and then go through to Christchurch and help rebuild Christchurch.”

During her work placement through He Toki, Meri experienced gib-boarding and demolition work and enjoyed both experiences. Working on buildings is satisfying, she said. “You can see what you’ve done. It’s a challenge and women love a challenge don’t they?”

To find out more about He Toki visit hetoki.co.nz or call 0800 24 24 76.

Meri Robinson.