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Building equity into the infrastructure-led recovery for Māori and Pasifika

This is a huge opportunity – and a wero – to demonstrate commitments to diversity, write sector engineers Troy Brockbank, Elle Archer, Sifa Pole and Sina Cotter Tait.

Aotearoa is awash with discussion on how we might re-imagine our post-Covid future; what could and should our economy and society look like? The budget announcement of infrastructure spend and training is an chance for the construction industry to develop specific, targeted actions for impact. As Māori and Pasifika engineers working in the construction and infrastructure sector, we’re calling on the industry to build equity into its response for Māori and Pasifika workers. It’s a huge opportunity – and a wero – for our government and industry to demonstrate their recent public commitments to the Diversity Accord.

The construction industry is headed into difficult times, with industry analysts predicting up to a third of jobs at risk. Māori and Pasifika workers are heavy lifters in the industry, over-represented in the lowest-earning tiers of the industry, and exposed to a disproportionate and inequitable share of the recessionary risks. The consequences of this are grim – loss of crucial income and wellbeing for Māori and Pasifika families and communities, with significant downstream effects for our already-marginalised communities. However, the prospect of a well-funded Infrastructure-Led recovery presents the construction industry with a unique opportunity to address these inequities faced by Māori and Pasifika communities in Aotearoa, and to advance its own goals towards a diverse and inclusive industry.

Elle Archer, Sina Cotter Tait, Troy Brockbank, and Sifa Pole

What should our industry be doing? The TL:DR

Five ideas for meaningful change:

  1. Expand the criteria for ‘Shovel-Ready Projects’ to consider how these projects will give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi
  2. Align priority work to the Wellbeing Budget Priorities, by adopting social procurement to select for firms offering employment to, and investing in, Māori and Pasifika workers
  3. Engage with, and increase Māori and Pasifika representation in industry leadership groups
  4. Rebalance the notoriously unfair risk carried by subcontractors and contract/casual labour through smart procurement and grounded risk allocation
  5. Ensure adequate accessibility to opportunities and career paths through innovative skills training and cross-industry partnerships.

What could it look like to consider Māori and Pasifika voices and values in the Covid-19 construction industry and infrastructure sector response?

This is a once in a generation opportunity to change how we think about our industry, calling for commitment, courage and long-term vision.

Project procurement is the most powerful lever our government has to effect change for Māori and Pasifika in the construction industry. Infrastructure New Zealand’s inclusion of social procurement as a guideline for the selection of “Shovel Worthy Projects” is excellent. We suggest also attaching well-considered diversity conditions to support Māori and Pasifika inclusion and representation, as a way of aligning with the Budget2020 priority. This isn’t as radical as it sounds – such conditions are becoming commonplace for other outcomes we value, such as environmental sustainability and gender diversity.

We don’t believe that our industry and our country can afford not to prioritise social outcomes in a nationwide recovery effort.

…As Minister Kris Fa’afoi has said: “We don’t succeed unless all of us succeed.” These words are resonant today. Protection of the construction industry must include our most vulnerable members and by extension our wider communities – and opportunities must be designed to be extended equitably to all. 

Abridged – Full article here:

Troy Brockbank (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi) is kaitohutohu matua taiao / senior environmental consultant; Elle Archer (Ngati Tamatera, Ngapūhi, Tuhoe) is a tech industry director and adviser; Sifa Pole (Pasifika-Tonga) is a professional engineer; Sina Cotter Tait (Pasifika-Samoa) is a chartered professional engineer and director.

The contributors acknowledge their identities as individual industry participants of Māori and/or Pasifika heritage, and do not claim to speak on behalf of a wider collective.

[Source: The Spinoff]