Maori and Pacific Students Shine During and After Unitec

Unitec, New Zealand’s largest institute of technology, is renewing its commitment to Maori and Pacific students with a Family Whanau / Fanau Day on October 27th in their Te Puna building at their Mt Albert Campus. An opportunity to see what Unitec has to offer, the day will be filled with Maori and Pasifika entertainment with child friendly activities and food stalls. Read the journeys of two exemplary students below



Bachelor of Creative Enterprise graduate, designer and artist Atarangi Anderson returned to Unitec to start her degree after receiving a certificate from the institution in 2012 for Visual Arts and Design.


Now a graduate, Atarangi is working on her clothing brand Inkycat, an ethical clothing brand working to reduce textile waste within New Zealand.


She received a scholarship that helped with Inkycat immensely in the final year of her degree, describing the experience as “amazing, and helped me on my journey with my Inkycat clothing brand and my art practice.”


Atarangi also began working with the comfort stone Pounamu.


A contemporary take on sacred tradition sees Atarangi work with the uncarved greenstone, weaving knots around it to create a necklace, which she says “will carry with it some of the wairua of the wearer and giver”.



Having recently completed a spate of pop up stores in places such as St Kevin’s Arcade on Auckland’s K Road for two weeks showcasing Inkycat, and working with other artists while showcasing her winter collection, Atarangi’s career is on the rise.


“I had a bunch of cool Wahine artists come into do some of their work at the same time,” she recalls.


“That was amazing … a really lovely space that you could collaborate on.”


Making use of skills and lessons learnt during her time at Unitec, Atarangi says she’s grateful for the institution, which she recalls as “being great place to be”.


Atarangi felt nurtured by her lecturers, while fellow Māori students in her department bonded while completing their studies.


“That was really helpful in terms of getting through my degree,” she recalls.


“There was such a sense of community and they really fostered it. It was nice to have lecturers who were willing to talk to you, see how you were doing and how they can help you with your art practices.”



Mangere-born and raised Tongan Robert Piutau says his wife returning to study and becoming a registered nurse spurred him to become a qualified builder.


Robert’s first year at Unitec in 2016 saw him undertake a Level 4 certificate in Applied Technology (Carpentry) and he’s never looked back.


He and his wife are parents to four children, with a fifth on the way. A stay-at-home dad while his wife studied, Robert began thinking about what careers would ignite his passion.


“I wanted to set an example for my children, the way my wife was doing,” he recalls.


Growing up, Robert’s fondest memories were of helping his grandfather build. He started doing odd jobs around the family home, despite admitting he did not really know what he was doing.


“I then thought, ‘Why don’t I go and learn to become qualified?’ That realisation was also a huge factor in terms of me making the decision.”


Robert researched and discovered Unitec was offering higher qualification levels for building, so he enrolled and began the commute from Mangere to Mt Albert. At Unitec he found an environment which helped him thrive, building upon and evolving existing skills while expanding his knowledge-base.


It helped being awarded a Māori & Pasifika Trades Training Scholarship.


“I’m now in my third year of my apprenticeship and I’ve got until June of next year until I’ve completed with my Level 6,” he says.


“So it’s not long to go until I’m a qualified builder.”



For Robert, Unitec’s environment and helpful down-to-earth staff and lecturers greatly assist with his learning.


It motivates him to do better and to achieve more, which shows not just in his learning, but his work.


“I see it a lot just at work … the knowledge that I’m gaining and the experience … I can go onto a site and can put things together practically. And in terms of the theory, I’ve gained quite a lot of knowledge at Unitec.”


In May this year, Robert competed against 18 other finalists in the New Zealand Certified Builders (NZCB) Apprentice Challenge, held over three days in Rotorua.


He was scored along with the other finalists in various areas, including an interview, a portfolio, cv, cover letter and presentation, before building a catapult as part of a separate promotion with Mitre 10. Robert came second in the building competition.


And although still finishing his apprenticeship to become a qualified builder, Robert wants to see more Pacific and Māori become qualified.


“I ask them where they see themselves in the long run. If it’s here, in building, I tell them to get qualified by Unitec and to check out what they offer, because the environment there is strong and supportive.”


For more information about what Unitec offers go to:


And come along to their Whanau/Fanau Day on October 27th at the Mt Albert Campus: