Supernan learning to become a builder

By Tumamao Harawira

Age is just a number for 75-year-old apprentice builder Liz Nicholls.

75-year-old Liz Nicholls Is holding her own as an apprentice builder.

She’s in the middle of a 32-week building course at Hoani Waititi Marae where the youngest trainee is 16 years old. So what makes a 75-year-old grandmother want to be a builder?

"I've always been interested in hammering nails. And if something breaks down at home who is gonna fix it? I live by myself."

"The goal is just to keep fit … and do whatever needs to be done around the place."

The Ngāpuhi grandmother of ten mokopuna has had a long association with Hoani Waititi. Her son Taniora was a foundation student at Te Wharekura o Hoani Waititi Marae.

Liz says she doesn't want to be an example for other kuia.

"You know, I'd say if you want to do something, get out and do it. Don't sit around at home and watch TV."

New Zealand Management Academies is a private tertiary group that runs the course. Tutor William Hansen says that Whāea Liz is the first-ever 75-year-old grandmother he has had as a student, but he says having Liz in amongst the younger students helps to bring a calming atmosphere to classes.

"We have a great atmosphere in the class, it's all about whānau, everyone here is to support each other which is good. The big thing is the students challenge each other which is important."

In an industry dominated by men, Liz proves that age and gender aren’t a barrier.

"If I can do it, then so can other women, so, come along and give it a go."