Meet Monica – A Ngāti Awa Faithful

Meet Monica – A Ngāti Awa Faithful

“I’m a faithful worker, it’s called being loyal!”

Ten years in the Māori Affairs Department, 19.5 years at the Whakatāne District Council and 17 years and counting at Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa, as well as nine years out “in the garden” being a Māmā to her babies, Monica Maniapoto is more than a faithful worker.

A loyal uri of Ngati Awa, Monica says she was born in raised in Te Teko and that this has always been her tūrangawaewae, particularly within Ngāi Tamaoki.

“In fact, I was born in Mapou, not quite at the pā but almost, on the bank of the Rangitaiki. The house I was born in belong to Mihiwai Powell.”

Monica says while she is a proud Ngāti Awa with affiliations to the Rangitaiki hapū, Ngāi Tamapare and Ngāti Pūkeko, but her heart belongs with Ngai Tamaoki and Ruaihona.

She says she attended Edgecumbe College and from there, she left Te Teko in 1968 when she was chosen as one of four young ladies from across the motu, to attend a secretarial course through the Māori Affairs Department.

“Each year, Māori Affairs chosen four young ladies to attend Gilby’s Business College to train as a Secretary. The course content was Shorthand (Pitman’s), Typewriting and English. At the end of the year, we sat exams, and we were given the choice to stay with the Māori and Island Affairs (MIA) Department (by then) or work in other Government Departments. I chose to stay at MIA. During the training, we were housed at the Head Office of MIA and I was there until October 1971, then I asked to be transferred to the Rotorua District Office of the MIA, to be closer to my mum (or home).

I had four children in Rotorua but still kept working until my big kids started school, then I thought I had better be a mum. It was easy to take maternity leave then up to six months.

My hubby started working in Tasman Paper & Pulp mill in December 1980. He lived with my mum in Te Teko, so I thought, YAY, I’m gonna move home, so in March 1981, me and the tamariki moved back to civilisation (Te Teko)!”

While bringing up her tamariki, Monica worked in her uncle’s market gardens (the Kamokamo King) and went asparagus picking for about nine years.

“After a while, I got hōhā with working in the gardens and my tamariki were all at kura. In 1986, I went to upgrade my skills at Waiariki Polytech, when it was at the corner of Domain and Francis Street. I was attending nightschool for speed shorthand and typing, then a New Horizons course began at the Polytech.”

“They had more or less stopped using typewriters by then and were starting to use computers like Displaywriters.”

As part of the course, Monica undertook work experience at the Whakatāne District Council and within six weeks she had secured a fulltime job as a Wordprocessor Operator. In 1989, she was promoted to Senior Work Processor Operator and was in charge of the Word Processing section.

Monica worked at the Council for 19.5 years and was made redundant in October 2005.  After a four month break, she was headhunted and received a call from a total stranger (to her) asking if she would like to come into the Rūnanga office to have an interview.  Monica joined Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa in April 2006, following the formalisation of the tribe’s settlement through the adoption of the Ngāti Awa Settlement Act.

Monica, or Aunty Mon as she is known to many of the iwi, started with Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa as an administrator in the then Environmental Ngāti Awa (ENA) which laid on the foundations to eventually become the Taiao Department. At that time, Beverley Hughes – who is now the Group Manager – Strategy and Policy – was the Manager ENA.

“My first role was to help set up the department. Bev came from Regional Council, and I came from the District Council, so it was easy to set up systems that we both understood. We were the first department that had a filing system (electronic and paper).”

At that time the Rūnanga was using the T:drive system, which eventually migrated into the H:drive that is still in place today for some people. New systems like “the Cloud”have been created including Teams, but Monica says that is the place of technology within Te Ao Hurihuri.

Now days she is the Tribal Register Officer for the Rūnanga. Her role is crucial to ensuring we know who our uri are and they know who we are.

When someone registers to be a member of Ngāti Awa, it is Monica’s job to process and ensure that the applicants have whakapapa links to the iwi. She then passes on the information to the Whakapapa Committee, and they confirm or decline the registration.