The land, the water and its relation to Maori has meshed together perfectly for science student John Rapana.

Mr Rapana, of Te Arawa iwi/Ngati Whakaue descent, is fulfilling a profound commitment to his Maori heritage through science.

He is one of a handful of Maori studying earth sciences at the University of Waikato as well as being selected as one of three interns at Contact Energy's Maori internship programme.

Mr Rapana's eight-week role at Contact is to map the company's stormwater systems to report back on compliance with resource consents.


It is designed to give Maori experience in a corporate environment and to help Contact understand and build relationships with tangata whenua (particularly with hapu and iwi close to its power stations).

Mr Rapana regards his internship as a tikanga role - in accordance to Maori custom and traditional values.

"We are whakapapa we see ourselves as part of the water, part of the land ... we can bring tikanga values into the corporate world, into resource management, not just for the sake of Maori but for all New Zealanders."

His job is to ensure water going back into the Waikato River between two points is compliant with resource consents. Mr Rapana travels to Taupo weekly and returns on the weekend to wife Jessica Del Perugia and his two young sons. His children (three in total) speak four languages.

Mr Rapana is also in his third year working towards a Bachelor of Science at Waikato University. There are too few Maori in the field of science, he says.

"I see the need for more Maori, as we are working through environmental interests and there are huge opportunities if scientists have the values the tikanga."

Mr Rapana spent more than a decade playing professional rugby in South West of France, where he met wife Jessica. His early career was in heavy automotive mechanics.

He's a late bloomer to tertiary education but Mr Rapana knew one day he would excel in the field of science/environment.

"I grew up with my grandmother and the environment was always discussed. I've always had a strong awareness of my whakapapa and so have a natural respect for the environment."

John Rapana
- Age 37
- Hometown Rotorua
- Te Arawa iwi/Ngati Whakaue
- Trilingual (te reo Maori, English, French)
- Trained in heavy automotive mechanics
- Played professional rugby in South West of France
- Married to Jessica Del Perugia, with three children
- Graduate diploma resource management (Waiariki Institute of Technology)
- Currently studying Bachelor of Science (University of Waikato)
- One of three interns selected for Contact Energy's Maori internship programme 2017