Iwi-led laundry service brings employment opportunities for whānau

By Mare Haimona-Riki

A partnership between Watercare and South Auckland hapū Te Ahiwaru has resulted in a laundry service providing not only clean clothes to nearby construction workers but also employment opportunities for local community members.

“Our role as a trust is to uplift and support our whānau and that's what we are doing with this business,” Te Ahiwaru Trust operations manager Tuini Tuwha says.

Whare Manaaki was established in November last year and provides not only employment opportunities but also clean work clothes for more than 200 construction workers based at the Mangere Watercare treatment plant, who are working on the Central Interceptor project.

Rex George from Ghella Abergeldie Construction says the service is crucial to ensuring cross-contamination is avoided.

“At the start of each shift, they will hop into new, clean PPE and at the end of each shift they will put that dirty PPE into a separate bin to be washed,” George says.

“The reason they have a change and put on new PPE at the start of every shift is so they don't take it home and stick it in the normal washing they have at home.”

Taking ownership

Tuwha says the initiative is helping their hapū achieve its business aspirations while also helping whanau transition back into employment.

“Working with my whānau, who are currently the kaimahi of the laundromat, has been awesome because we all have that dream to employ more whānau and make this business a success for us,” Tuwha says.

The laundry is made up of two containers. One is equipped with commercial washing machines and driers; the other with sewing and embroidery machines and additional space to store PPE.

Once the Central Interceptor project is completed in 2026, the laundry will be solely in the hands of Te Ahiwaru, which will decide if the business is viable enough to continue its services.

"Any financial gain from this business will be put back to the hapū and be used for other business ventures," Tuwha says