Business Leaders

George Reedy – Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga chief executive

George Reedy is the chief executive of Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, a charitable trust that provides a wide range of health, social and education services to over 10,000 whanau. The Profit put a series of questions to George.

What’s your background?

I grew up in Tikitiki, up the East Coast, surrounded by uncles, aunts and grandparents. That gave me a solid start in life. I was secure in the knowledge of who I was, and who was there for me.

Who has been the most inspirational person in your life?

One of my earliest memories is of my mother piggybacking me across a floodgate spanning a flooded stream. It was quite a dangerous exercise really, but my mother was determined to get me across because, on the other side, the school bus was waiting for me. That was the value she put on education.

My parents, Te Moana and Apikara Rangi, worked hard. To them, education was the ultimate goal, the gateway to everything they didn’t have. That’s why I never got a day off school just because the stream was flooded. It’s an ethos that has always stayed with me. It’s why I’ve spent the past 20 years working in Māori development.

What career path have you followed?

After school, I spent a bit of time fencing, then went into the forestry service before getting a cadetship with Māori Affairs. They introduced me to accountancy and I realised I was really good with numbers. I went on to do a degree in accountancy and become a Chartered Accountant. That was my pathway into senior management.

Since then I’ve had many roles in a range of sectors, including Government and Māori economic and development initiatives. My focus is on growing sustainable businesses using information technology combined with a strong emphasis on quality of service and product.

What is a stand-out feature of your role?

TToH is values-based. That’s a lot more than a mission statement on the wall. We really do underpin everything with cultural values. They shape our world view, our business operations, and the way we function on a daily basis. As Chief Executive, it’s an important part of my role to maintain that. For example, our staff are 80 percent Māori, and one of our key goals is to promote the development of a skilled Māori workforce.

Out in the community, we’re engaged with 10,000 whānau. About 75 percent of them are younger than 25, and many are living in challenging circumstances, focused on day-to-day survival. That’s their reality.

TToH’s reality is the need to connect with whānau, and support them into a space where they can start to take control of their own lives and move forward.

What is Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga?

Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga is a Charitable Trust, governed by a board of trustees elected by the 14 marae of Heretaunga.

The organisation started 32 years ago, becoming an Incorporated Society on September 19, 1985. Its base was the tractor shed at Waipatu marae. It had $60 in the bank and one part-time employee. The office was the boot of a Toyota Corolla.

Today, TToH owns a substantial campus in Orchard Rd. It was once the DB Heretaunga. Now it’s home to our medical and dental centre, mental health centre, purpose-built childcare centre, and our central daily operations. This includes the administration of a large portfolio of health, social and education contracts applied across a large geographical area – from Mahia to Wellington and across to Wanganui.

We have 270 employees, which probably makes us one of Hawke’s Bay’s larger employers. It might sound like a platitude, but the staff really are the foundation of TToH. They’re dedicated, selfless, and I think they really don’t realise how good they are at what they do.

What are your plans for the future of Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga?

The long-term sustainability of this organisation is crucial for the people of Heretaunga. We are here for them in ways that no other organisation is, or can be.

We’ve never received a cent of Treaty Settlement money. We are where we are today, turning over $20 million a year, through sheer hard work. We will continue to do that, but while we remain dependent on government contracts, there’s always uncertainty. I want TToH to become less dependent on contracts, and more financially independent.

I look at the needs of our people out there, and they’re the same as everyone else’s – warm, secure housing, affordable and effective healthcare, social connection, jobs, good incomes, education and hope for the future. There’s too much of that missing from the picture at the moment.

So we’re thinking about wider horizons, and for a start, that’s probably going to mean we step into the social housing space. Every indicator for high-needs and poor social outcomes begins with poor housing.

I also want big changes in the way that successive governments shape their policies and contracts around Māori support.

Mainstream contracts come out of centralised policy, one size fits all. Too many are process-driven box- ticking exercises that are never going to achieve fundamental, long-lasting change for whānau. But trying to change bureaucratic thinking around that is huge. It’s a real mind-shift. To say, fund us for an agreed set of outcomes, and let us do it our way, involves high levels of trust.

What TToH achievement are you most proud of?

Late last year we introduced a new system of workforce organisation, in the form of multi-skilled, integrated teams. Each team has the capacity to create individualised, wraparound packages of care and support for whānau, depending on their circumstances. They can also draw on other teams with relevant skills to help that whānau.

So we’ve gone from mono-skilled teams working within their own contract silos, to teams with the ability to create a holistic, integrated plan that includes tackling the underlying issues affecting whānau.

This system is producing exponentially better outcomes for whānau, and efficiencies for TToH. Why have five cars up the driveway when one, with two people in it, can do the job.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

My heartfelt thanks go to Iron Māori, who taught me how to swim. Now I go swimming and biking and walking all the time. I love it. You might see me walking on Te Mata Peak from time to time.