Building healthy homes for Northland whanau through progressive procurement

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The Yakas Construction team, with owner Martin Yakas third from right.

Maori business Yakas Construction has won its first government contract with Kainga Ora – Homes and Communities to build six state houses in Kaikohe.

Yakas was supported to be bid-ready through a progressive procurement initiative led by Te Puni Kokiri and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

It aims to use the Government’s annual $51.5 billion buying power to accelerate Maori businesses and provide wider social outcomes in communities.

Kerikeri business owner Martin Yakas of Ngati Rehia says he’s driven by getting whanau into warm, dry homes in the north where he grew up — a region with a major housing shortage.

“Being awarded the contract with Kainga Ora was pretty surreal. I’ve invested a lot of time in the process, so it was emotional finding out we won it,” Yakas says.

“For me it’s about seeing whanau going into these houses and not living in tin sheds. Every time I see a family going into a new home I feel better,” he says.

Yakas started his business with just one other employee when they worked for Northland iwi, repairing houses to be weathertight. He’s now grown his team to 12, including two wahine who just started.

“Lots of these whare weren’t dry or warm, and they leaked. I’ve built the business up gradually and, after getting our first shot at a new build in Kerikeri, we started getting noticed for our quality and delivery on time.”

Yakas Construction went through Te Puni Kokiri’s Progressive Procurement Capability Uplift Programme, where he was mentored by Maori business Height Project Management Ltd.

“It’s been a long process to tender for a Kainga Ora contract, but it’s been good forming these relationships.

“I got there with help on things like accounting, procurement, and setting up our Health and Safety prequalification, which you need to show the developments are safe,” he says.

Kainga Ora construction and innovation general manager Patrick Dougherty says enabling opportunities to engage with Maori and Pasifika businesses supports the strategic outcomes of Kainga Ora.

“Yakas Construction were successful as they put together a competitive proposal, are locally-based, and are respected builders with strong links to the local community,” Dougherty says.

“We also recognised the benefits of working with Martin because he offers significant job opportunities for local youth, and this has a knock-on effect to the Northland economy.”

Along with helping with the housing shortage, Yakas’ other passion is working with the local high school to offer rangatahi a chance to learn building skills.

“I help out a lot of Maori youth who are heading down the wrong path, and I give them a chance to upskill through apprenticeships. I’ve seen them turn themselves around into being role models after coming off the streets.

“The waiting list for houses up here is massive. It takes on another angle when Maori are seeing Maori building houses. It’s important to me we are building homes for local people that need it,” he says.

Dougherty says Kainga Ora is already busy with close to 150 homes, in various stages of feasibility, procurement and construction, to be built in Northland, with more to follow.

“Supporting local contractors will play a big role in the success of delivering these homes,” he says.

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