Sometimes a little push is what we need to move ourselves forward. As for Chad Tareha, it was his partner Abbie who, five years ago, set his career change in motion.

Until then Chad had worked as a machine operator in a reinforcement steel and mesh company.

Abbie was about to finish her degree in social work at EIT, when she enrolled Chad into a level 2 certificate in te reo Māori, presenting him with a fait accompli. The classes are held in the evening and free, so why not give it a go? Chad didn't know much more of the language than the average New Zealander, as his parents did not actively speak it nor encourage its use.

"Yet I fell in love with the course straight away," says Chad, who is of Ngāti Pārau descent.
The 33-year-old completed qualification after qualification before deciding to study a Bachelor of Arts (Māori). In 2017 he handed in his leaving notice at work.

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"That's when my partner and I switched roles. She started to work fulltime while I became a fulltime student."

For Chad immersing himself in te reo Māori is more than just adding something new to his CV. His marae was short of male speakers and he wanted to assume more responsibility. Over the past few years Chad has become an active advocate for Māori concerns promoting culture and language.

Chad is a member of the steering group developing an outdoor learning environment at EIT, and chairman of the Ngāti Pārau Hapū Trust as well as of the Waiohiki Māori Marae Committee. In addition, he serves on the board of the Marine Culture Health Programme for Napier Port. As the mana whenua steering group he and his team make sure that everyone is aware of the history and culture significance of the area.

As if that wasn't enough, he is also taking councils and schools on cultural tours up Ōtātara Pā on behalf of his hapū.

At the moment Chad is building a waka as part of an initiative run by the Ātea a Rangi Educational Trust.

"I've recently gained my skipper's licence and our goal is to teach children how to sail and to move in the water safely. When we were young we were always swimming in the rivers but times have changed and for that reason it's so important to reconnect children with being in the water."

At the same time, Chad is juggling a growing family with his second son due in August. His first-born, Tairell, is 9 and shows a lot of interest in speaking te reo Māori and his school's kapa haka group.

To recognise Chad's unremitting dedication to sharing Māoridom with the community, he was selected as one of this year's EIT Awards of Excellence winners by the Rotary Club of Taradale.

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"Over the last years I discovered so many new areas of interest. Studying just opens your mind to the whole world. I've not only learned the language of my people but so much about history, archaeology, environmental issues and legislation. I've met interesting people and made great friends, and it seems that door after door is opening up."