Take a journey through our foundational story

We’re on a journey to embrace Te Ao Māori into Engineering New Zealand Te Ao Rangahau and the wider profession. How did we get here? Why now? And… what next?

Kimihia Rangahaua is the name of our strategy to embed Te Ao Māori (Māori world view) into our work, our organisation, and the engineering profession. The phrase ‘Kimihia Rangahaua’ expresses searching intently for truth, clarity and understanding in what is largely the unknown. It's taken a long time to get to this point and there is still much work to be done.

So, how did we get here?

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the second half of the nineteenth century saw the establishment of the institutions used to conduct and control society – Parliament, justice, property, finance, commerce, education, and health. Aotearoa’s professions were also established in the colonial and post-colonial periods, including the New Zealand Institution of Engineers, the first incarnation of what was to become Te Ao Rangahau, in 1914. All were grounded in Imperial models and, common to all, are examples of chequered histories and failures toward Māori over the years.

The role of Māori in engineering received little attention from IPENZ until the 1990s, when its journal and conference began reflecting an increasing sense of obligation and need to pay greater attention to Māori aspirations. Morris Love (Te Atiawa) contributed on several occasions and argued not enough Māori were entering the profession – a challenge still faced today.

In 2004, the organisation received the te reo Māori name Pūtahi Kaiwetepanga Ngaio o Aotearoa, a translation of IPENZ, from the Māori Language Commission. However, some were concerned the translation did not capture the intent of the organisation and the name fell out of use.

In 2017, IPENZ changed its name to Engineering New Zealand to reflect a significant shift in strategic direction focused on delivering greater credibility, recognition, influence, and connection to members.

Adopting a new English name was an opportunity for a more relevant and modern te reo Māori name. In 2018, Engineering New Zealand was gifted Te Ao Rangahau by Sir Tamati Reedy (Ngāti Porou). Te Ao Rangahau translates as ‘the engineering universe’ and encapsulates our vision to ‘bring engineering to life’.

In 2019, members supported a change to make explicit reference to ‘promoting the Treaty principles of partnership, protection and participation’ in the organisation’s Rules. However, changes to support that commitment are still to materialise.

In August 2020, Chantelle Bailey (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi), Lincoln Timoteo (Ngāti Raukawa), Warner Cowin (Ngāti Porou) and Troy Brockbank (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine) came together for a Diversity Agenda panel discussion about Māori in construction and challenged Te Ao Rangahau to do more for Māori. This wero (challenge) was the catalyst for the governing board, new chief executive Richard Templer and kaimahi (workers) to begin the work of Kimihia Rangahaua. Te Ao Rangahau invited those panel members to form an external advisory group to guide that journey. They chose the name ‘Papaki Parihau’, which means ‘flapping wings as a butterfly does when it wants to begin flying’.

Shortly after, Wharehuia Dixon was welcomed to the governing board of Te Ao Rangahau. As a Māori engineer who navigates both worlds, his appointment was driven by the recognition for the need to build cultural capability around the board table, and to recognise and value mātauranga Māori and Te Ao Māori in our profession.

Why now?

Every engineer has a right to feel part of a profession that is welcoming, safe and inclusive of their cultural concepts and perspectives. Sadly, there have been instances within the profession, including at the tertiary education level, where this has not been the case. Racism and a general lack of understanding of te reo Māori and the importance of Te Ao Māori to engineering continues.

Perceptions and definitions of engineers and engineering have been dominated by Western concepts and approaches that have not always adequately considered the environmental, cultural, and social contexts of Aotearoa. While there have been attempts to embed Te Ao Māori in relevant legislation, such as the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), in practice this has fallen short of delivering the protections that are promised in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, despite some exemplary projects. This results in poor outcomes, especially for Māori.

We also know Māori have been and continue to be underrepresented in the profession. The latest data from our online member area (November 2021) indicate that of those who responded (83% of total membership), only 3% are Māori. In comparison, data from the 2018 New Zealand Census indicate that 7% of engineers in New Zealand identify as Māori.

As the professional and membership body for engineers in Aotearoa, we have a responsibility to ensure the profession has the tools and knowledge to work with iwi and Māori to realise the intention of Te Tiriti. This will ensure we are building and maintaining relationships within Te Ao Māori to co-create better engineering solutions and ways of working that benefit us all.

And what’s next?

Te Ao Rangahau is responsible and committed to raising and upholding standards across the profession. This includes upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi and embedding te ao Māori as central to our mission: 'Bringing engineering to life so we can engineer better lives for New Zealanders.’ Through Kimihia Rangahaua, we will be working to:

  • recognise and value cultural competency as a core skill for Aotearoa’s engineers
  • support our members and the wider profession to develop these skills
  • make engineering a profession where Māori can thrive
  • recognise and celebrate stories of Māori engineering
  • promote the use of te reo Māori.

We've also placed value on ensuring cultural competency in our own staff, to equip Te Ao Rangahau to support the engineering profession to realise these goals. It’s time for Aotearoa’s engineers to take their place in this story. It’s going to take time, but it’s work we must do if our institution is to be truly inclusive and relevant in contemporary Aotearoa.

Haere mai – welcome. And join us.


rere runga hau

Papaki parihau

Rere runga hau

Ka piki, ka piki

Runga rawa e

Papaki parihau

rere runga hau.


carried on the wind.

Fluttering its wings

on the wind

Up and up

Way up high

Fluttering its wings

on the wind.

– Dr Hirini Melbourne ONZM (1949 – 2003)