Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Sky’s the limit for thriving regional Pasifika-Maori owned airport company

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John Pulu | Presenter/ Reporter/Director

Tauranga company JNP Aviation sees a future of opportunity for Pasifika people across the aviation industry.

When aircrafts land at Tauranga airport, marshalling in the new arrivals is Caleb Kapua-Priest. 

He’s part of the ground handling team servicing the third busiest general aviation airport in the country.

“Once the plane comes in bags out, next bags in, passengers out, passengers in and then catering all the food and stuff we have like a half an hour window for that so we do have to have a pace on ourselves.”

In his final year of high school JNP Aviation took Caleb under their wing and introduced him to the industry. 

The young Sāmoan-Māori is the first in his family to get into this line of work.

“We’ve got a carpentry family back at home. I didn’t even know there was a career or a job much in aviation but I’m learning something every day,” Kapua-Priest says.

JNP Aviation CEO Josh Payne has been doing the groundwork since 2006 but getting qualified in this area has been up in the air until 2021 when the aviation school he founded in the Bay of Plenty was cleared for take-off.

“Pilots get certified, flight attendants get certified, you’ve got control tower getting certified but the people that are doing the majority of the work on the ground, there is no formal recognition or certification,” he says.

“So that was one of our driving forces. We want to empower our people to actually have tangible NZQA accredited certificates.”

Payne, who is of Māor and Niuean heritage has opened the door for others to join him as his company provides for Air New Zealand at up to 10 ports across the motu. 

But he wants to recruit more Pasifika people as they only make up 11 percent of this work force.

They’ve acquired a decommissioned ATR aircraft to become their classroom and it will be adorned with Pasifika patterns.

Now with over 100 employees of 35% Pasifika and Māori, one third are female.  One of them is proud mum from Sāmoa Fiapa’ipa’i Taua.

She was offered a job to work and study here last year and she wants others to join the crew.

“If you don’t understand, just ask questions and it will give you more knowledge. That’s my main option for the girls around there;  just come and do it. If you don’t do it you won’t know what you’ll come up against.”

And it’s a proud moment for local leader Fainu’ulelei Aifa’i Esera who is excited about what is on the horizon for young people in this sector.

“Yes being a pilot, yes being a flight attendant but there are also engineers there are also air traffic controller there’s also people that work within the airport, airport manager so those are type of opportunities that our people can be exposed to but you’ve got to go through that door and that door is JNP aviation.”

It’s that same door Caleb is hoping our people can walk through like he did.

“I’d like to see more Pasifika and Māori. Young blokes;  I’d like to see young-uns out on the tarmac as well but until that happens I’ll just be enjoying my days here.”

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