He Waka Eke Noa hosted its first supplier forum in March.

Māori and Pasifika businesses came together with procurement representatives and buyers from a number of large organisations.

The aim of the forum was to link up supplier businesses with organisations that have a commitment to supplier diversity and expanding procurement opportunities.

More than 60 people attended the forum, including procurement teams from Auckland Council and Community Facilities and The Southern Initiative, Community Facilities contractors, Auckland Transport procurement teams, as well as buyers from Downer/Hawkins, Fulton Hogan, McConnell Dowell, and a number of Maori and Pasifika businesses.

The forum was launched with karakia and mihi from Alex Hawea, ensuring the success of the journey through connecting and paying respect to ancestors, and the place, space and people of Manukau and Tāmaki.

The link to the past is always going to be a compass for this waka, and the echo of the karakia set the course – “Tēnei te ara o Ranginui e tū nei, Tēnei te ara Papatūānuku e takoto nei, Tēnei te Pō, Nau mai te āo.” The opportunity of the collective efforts to build a robust and strong supplier diversity in New Zealand can be seen reflected in the karakia. It describes bringing light to the space between the path of Ranginui that stands above, and the path of Papatūānuku that lies below.

George Makapatama welcomed the hui on behalf of He Waka Eke Noa. He told the story of uga (coconut crab) hunting in Niue as he grew up following in the footsteps of his grandfather. The knowledge was passed down through generations; from preparing to set coconut bait to catch uga to reading the weather to know the best time to leave for the hunt in the night. Wayne Stokes from Kia Tupato Ltd responded by acknowledging God and our ancestors and reminding all present to remember the people who have walked before us who trod the paths that we will follow.

The Auckland Council procurement team kicked off the morning by taking suppliers through their procurement process and prequalification requirements to work with the council. They offered to provide onsite support when He Waka Eke Noa businesses are ready to set up in the council’s contracts management system, Ariba.

Communities Facilities was supported by their contractors, Ventia, Citicare, VMS, AIM, Wildlands and Treescape to present contract opportunities within their organisations and discuss how He Waka Eke Noa businesses can bid for some of this work. A presentation from Auckland Transport generated discussion throughout the day. AT is the first organisation in the council family to work with TSI/He Waka Eke Noa to include social outcomes and supplier diversity clauses in their contracts. One example is the social outcomes clauses for the AMETI Busway contracts. AT’s Procurement Manager Dave Colqhoun reiterated AT’s commitment to championing supplier diversity and supporting He Waka Eke Noa.

The information on potential opportunities for He Waka Eke Noa suppliers was valuable as buyers were able to directly answer questions from suppliers. Downer/Hawkins highlighted their presentation with the story of a Samoan/Tongan woman working for them. Sapaoa Rimoni was a stay-at-home mum who went back to school to complete Level 4 Carpentry at MIT. She then went on to complete her Diploma in Civil Engineering. Hawkins provided her with support and mentoring to enable her to reach her goal to become a site engineer. Sapaoa’s journey is similar to others who have realised their aspirations through hard work and an effective wrap-around support network. She says:

“When I look at my journey to date I stand on a firm foundation built and supported by people that have gone before me. I stay strong as I know there is a generation that needs me to do my part so that they too succeed and continue to pave the way for others to do the same.”

He Waka Eke Noa runs these events to grow the amount of minority suppliers in mainstream supply chains. Buyers and clients are able to access cutting edge practice from across the globe around how to insert minority businesses into their supply chains and grow their capacity and capability to do more for them. Supplier diversity is an emerging concept in Aotearoa, it is great to see buy-in to He Waka Eke Noa from different a range of different buyers and clients.

Judging by how much positive feedback we received, the day was a success and gives us the confidence to run similar events in the future.