After gaining a degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at Lincoln University David took up a job in the Property division of the Ministry of Education.
In 1998, a year after the Ngāi Tahu settlement, David became the inaugural General Manager for Te Tapuae o Rēhua, a cross-agency initiative between Ngāi Tahu and five universities and polytechnics that aims to raise the participation and achievement levels of Māori tertiary students in Te Waipounamu.
An opportunity arose in 2003 for him to recast the presence of Te Puni Kōkiri in the region and this was due to the decision being made to transition the then Te Puni Kōkiri Services, which were part of Te Rūnanga o Ngai Tahu, fully back into Te Puni Kōkiri. New Te Puni Kōkiri offices were set up in Ōtautahi (Christchurch), Ōtepoti (Dunedin), Waihopai (Invercargill) and Hokitika, with the West Coast office closing a year later.
In his time with the Ministry David believes the credibility of Te Puni Kōkiri has increased significantly across Government as our role has continued to develop.
“A lot of our credibility comes with building quality, solid and trusting relationships.”
In February 2017, the Ōtautahi office shifted into a new inner city building with other government agencies as part of the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan where he is working to bridge the gap between Māori communities and the wider State Sector.
“I can see a number of benefits of been located with other government departments in terms of our ability to engage and have free and frank discussions with them. On the other hand, we do have to work harder to keep connected with Māori at a community level. We’ve had to look at new ways to get out-and-about to where whānau are.”
Going forward, the Māori population in Te Waipounamu is expected to increase by 31 percent (2013-2023) while the national rate is 20 percent. David puts this down to a combination of factors including, natural population growth and more people being willing and proud to identify themselves as Māori.
“I also recognise that we have a significant proportion of our people who don’t know their iwi which means we’ve got a big connection issue to foster. Most importantly however is that all those people still live and operate as whānau and I just want to make sure they have a positive future.
“I think the critical issue for us is understanding what this means from a policy perspective. If people identify as Māori, how do they expect services to be delivered to them? How do we communicate effectively with them and what are their aspirations?”
He predicts Ngāi Tahu will continue to grow stronger and the challenge is to ensure that all Māori in the region have a bright prospects. He believes Te Puni Kōkiri is well placed to work with and for Māori communities as the lead Crown adviser on Māori wellbeing issues.
“We’ve got a wealth of knowledge across Te Puni Kōkiri staff – an absolute wealth. The biggest resource Te Puni Kōkiri has are its people and it’s something that no other agency can replicate. It’s an extremely difficult thing to build and I think the Te Waipounamu team is just getting stronger every day.”