By Ingrid Jellick

Tawhiro Ruha grew up on the East Cape. Before he left in 1986, he worked in forestry. Now he's back where he started out.

"Luckily there was work because I actually planted some of these trees before I left. So, it's just good to be back," Mr Ruha said.

Mr Ruha works for Takatini Group, a forest road engineering company built by local Maori for local Maori from Te Whānau-a-Apānui.


Takatini Group manager Stephen Frires says he's pleased the company has been able to employ locals that have returned from Australia.

"We've got three guys that have been to Australia, developed some skills over there, and they come back from Australia of their own volition, and we've been able to employ them down here and bring them back into the local area and utilise their skills here," Mr Frires said.

The forestry land is currently leased to foreign companies by Te Whānau-a-Apānui. As part of the lease agreement, Iwi members must be offered employment. And that is how Takatini Group began.

Te Kura Mana Maori o Whangaparaoa School Head Mistress Tuihana Pook says the community has benefited from the increase in local employment.

"Formerly we had people going out to the towns or going over to Australia looking for employment. Now we're able to provide it here on our own land. We now have our people coming back and being part and parcel of our community with employment of course families will bring more children," Mrs Pook said.

Mr Frires says the business venture it is an investment in the future of the community.

"When we inherit these land blocks back we want them with good roads that we can continue our forestry operations on into the future," Mr Frires said.

The company currently employs 20 people who wouldn't otherwise be able to make a living in their ancestral home on the East Cape.