Havea Pamaka

Civil Engineering BE(Hons) graduate Havea wants to help others and maybe one day make a difference in his home country of Tonga.

Qualification: BE(Hons) in Civil Engineering
Role: Graduate Engineer at Downer

“I’ve got close family ties back in Tonga. My parents are first generation, migrated over here, and my grandparents are back there, so we went back quite frequently as kids and were exposed to the culture back home. When I was in my teens I was there just after the riots, in 2006. A cousin of mine lived pretty much in the city centre, so having known what the town actually looked like and then seeing the devastation was a bit of a shock.

The penny didn't really drop then, but that's when I believe, in the back of my mind I started thinking about what I might want to do further along in my life. I didn't even know what Engineering was at that age, let alone the different disciplines, so I thought maybe I could help by getting into law or politics.

“A couple of weeks before uni actually started I thought maybe politics wasn’t my thing and I had second thoughts. I kind of just jumped to the complete opposite end of the continuum and went with Engineering. Having done well enough in calculus and physics, the thinking was that I could help people in the way Civil Engineers do.

“There were a couple of reasons I chose the University of Auckland. Auckland's got the highest population of Pasifika, and I already thought that at university I'm going to be a fish out of water, so I wanted to be close to the communities I was still familiar with. The other reason was that my parents went to the University of Auckland. There was a certain cohort from Tonga that came over and studied at the University, and I just thought it would be cool to follow the legacy.

“My Part IV project was a study in the application of the Mauri Model, which Dr Kepa Morgan developed at the University of Auckland during his tenure. So, not only was it something that was developed at the University, it was something that a Māori professor developed himself, and that I draw inspiration from. The Mauri Model draws directly from Maori principals and is a holistic approach to decision making. Rather than just taking into account the financial or economic cost, there is provision for the cultural impact as well – thus the Mauri Model to me encompassed, in essence, somewhat of an integrated New Zealand. I thought it was awesome to have the opportunity to have a real life application of this concept.

“The summer before fourth year was my first internship with Downer. I quite valued being in contracting work, so I carried on and ended up applying for Downer and carried on into their Graduate Programme. It's been an invaluable experience, giving me the opportunity to be put into different facets of the company and not only in Auckland, but across the country. Downer has grown so much in just this last three years that I've been with them too. Allowing me to be involved in vertical build, in wharf and marine works, even asset maintenance/management. Being involved in all those different things means I’ve been steadily adding to my metaphorical tool box.

“I'd rank the wharf upgrade project I worked on in the Chatham Islands quite highly. That was an awesome experience because we had to be part of the community, we had to. It’s such a remote place that we would have otherwise been pretty much secluded. The project was to service such a small municipality, you know every bit of the job you do is going to be under scrutiny. That pushed us to do the best we could do for the community over there. There's something like 400 permanent residents there, so you'll hear about it if someone doesn’t like something. We really took the time to be part of the community by competing in the local touch competitions, joining in during the food festivals, and just really getting to know some of the locals there. We made a habit of employing locals as well, welcoming them into the work team, so it wasn't an “Us” and “Them” mentality, it was just "We" - a joint effort.

“I'm just trying to take it all in my stride at the moment. My long-term goal is to gain experience from my managers, the company leaders and the like because I want to be in that position someday. Once I've got the know-how, I’d like to potentially head back and do a stint back home in the motherland. Who knows, it might end up that the government starts funding a job over there. I'd definitely put my hand up for opportunities like that. Downer is actually doing a job in Samoa at the moment, so I'm just crossing my fingers waiting for when they say Tonga.

“My vision for the future involves a more balanced workforce. The current stigma is that Pacific Islanders are big burly men and we're the ones on the coal front, doing the heavy lifting. I'd like to see more of us heading up the ranks and getting into management roles. Such an influx, I believe, could potentially benefit the Pacific, with those having been born or having close ties there returning. It would be great to see more Pasifika and Māori in the industry, and that will come with increasing awareness back home as well as imploring our younger ones to start thinking about Engineering early which are things that have always been done but I feel has gained a lot of traction as of late. We used to do this back at uni by visiting schools through Tuakana and SPIES, now in industry we’ve been able to do this through such things as The Wonder Project run by Engineering NZ and via SPPEEx, hopefully I’ve been able to inspire some of the next generation! I want to see more Maori and Pasifika coming into not only university as a whole, but into all these industries where we're greatly underrepresented.”