Māori and Crown come together to reach the stars

By Taroi Black

The sky's the limit with Māori in the South Island and the Crown coming together on a special commercial joint venture to build a multi-pronged aerospace company, which includes a launching pad for rockets.   

The project, called Project Tāwhaki, will be run by the newly formed company Kaitorete, which represents two Ngāi Tahu marae, Te Taumutu Rūnanga and Wairewa Rūnanga working alongside the Crown.

The aim is to tap into the multi-billion dollar aerospace economy with a suitable site for space launch off the coast of Canterbury. Research, Science, and Innovation Minister Megan Woods says this will unlock jobs for mana whenua and the local economy.  

"What we absolutely have to do, and what is a huge passion of mine, is make sure we have got the training and the education opportunities in place for our local young people, certainly for the young people of our rūnanga," Woods says.

"These are well-paid jobs for the future, and we want to make sure we are unleashing those opportunities for rangatahi but also for the wider Canterbury region as well."

The Crown has invested $16 million to secure the land, in which the Crown and mana whenua will each own 50 percent of shares in the land and project.

Te Taumutu Rūnanga director David Perenara-O'Connell says he would like to see opportunities for his people through this partnership.    

"Our commitment has been that our whānau have to be active participants in whatever we saw going forward,"Perenara-O'Connell says.

"The last thing we wanted is our rangatahi and mokopuna standing in our haukāinga watching rockets or aerospace vehicles departing and looking at that from afar. That's been a driver for us, in the sense of unlocking this opportunity."