Over 30 jobs will be created for Māori and Pacific people as building on the second largest transport project in Auckland begins.

A partnership between Auckland Transport and The Southern Initiative (TSI) is looking to create equal opportunities for Māori and Pacific businesses and increase employment in low socio-economic groups.

The union will be part of the $1.4b Eastern Busway project, after an agreement was made with the prime contractor for over 30 jobs to be created for South and West Aucklanders, Māori and Pacific people.

Contractors will also be required to meet targets for increasing female participation in the industry, closing the gap between Māori and Pacific peoples' wages to the rest of Auckland, and increasing the number and quality of business opportunities for Māori and Pacific-owned enterprises.

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Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison said it saw the partnership as a real opportunity to invest in local communities and create jobs and careers.

"We are investing billions of dollars in transport and transport infrastructure over the next 10 years, which is an exciting time for Auckland, but this gives us the opportunity to change lives of people, particularly those who may not have had the opportunity to participate in employment – such as females, Maori and Pacifika."

Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison. Photo / Supplied
Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison. Photo / Supplied

TSI's Tania Pouwhare said it selects workers through its trade training programme, community groups and contacts.

"First of all they have got to want to have a career in this industry, and for it to be something that they are interested in.

"Then we go through a process of sitting down with them to really understand what their career aspirations are, the strengths they are bringing, and any challenges or barriers.

"Part of that is working really closely with the contractor to understand what their needs are."

Ellison said AT is offering positions to people with trade skills or interest, and works with them over the project to help them get fully qualified.

"It's not just low-skilled or low-paid jobs, we are talking about roles that are paid at least a living wage – and there is incentives around payment in terms of the longer they stay and the more skills they pick up.

"On the Manukau Bus Station, we had 15 people who by the end of the project came away with their apprenticeships or were fully skilled and able to get on with the next stages in their career," he said.

Ellison said part of the beauty of the initiative is the support from the employer and TSI.

"It means they are set up to succeed rather than fail. There is real opportunity to change lives, and not just over the term of this project, but to build careers."

Tania Pouwhare from The Southern Initiative. Photo / Supplied
Tania Pouwhare from The Southern Initiative. Photo / Supplied

Pouwhare said its work with Auckland Council and its council-owned organisations is just the start of a wider initiative to create equal opportunities for developing indigenous owned businesses.

"How we make sure Māori and Pacific businesses get a piece of the action could be a game-changer," she says.

"Countries around the world have had these practices embedded in their policies for many years. In the past two years, the amount of services procured from indigenous owned businesses in Australia rose from $6 million to almost $2 billion.

"Due to these policies, the number of aboriginal owned businesses in Australia has risen in the past nine years to 1473.

"This is the flip-side to welfare. And it builds on the innate skills within our people and brings them into the mainstream economy."

TSI also has agreements with 15 other employers, including; Downer Hawkins, Higgins, Fulton Hogan, Connell Contractors, CPB Contractors, Dempsey Wood, March Construction, Broad Spectrum, NZ Strong, Watercare, March Cato, City Care, John Fillmore Contractors, Tana Group, and B&H Builders.

It has also established He Waka Eke Noa, a Māori and Pacific Business network to meet the need for more suppliers.

The network currently has 54 member businesses, mostly in the construction industry, employing more than 850 staff, of whom 80 per cent are Māori and Pacific.

AMETI Eastern Busway:

• The Eastern Busway is the second biggest transport infrastructure project after the City Rail Link.

• It consists of several major pieces of infrastructure, including a busway between Panmure and Botany, stations at Pakuranga and Botany, and the Reeves Road flyover at Pakuranga Town Centre.

• Construction began in April and will take approximately two years.