Meet Mike Tana

Mike Tana is the new PSA president. We asked him to tell us a little bit about himself.

Mike TanaWhat’s your job?

I’m a senior adviser in the Ministry for Primary Industries. My job is to write and manage standards that control biosecurity risk at the border. The standards help inspectors and importers ensure that hitchhiker pests, diseases and contaminants do not arrive in New Zealand.


How did you get into it?

I have an agricultural science degree from Massey. There was a job going for a biosecurity inspector in Wellington and this fitted with the areas I’d worked and studied in so I applied and was accepted.


What got you involved in the PSA?

MAF inspectors were pretty much 95 per cent PSA members so it was a no-brainer to become a union member. Then when I moved to head office, I met PSA delegate Dave Nendick who would not stop telling me I should become a delegate. I tried my hardest not to take on the extra role but he tempted me with the ability to join the rūnanga and work for Māori members as well. That sold it for me. Dave has been my greatest support and mentor; he even put forward my nomination for president.


Do you see benefits in being a delegate?

From my experience, the benefit was being able to keep managers honest when they were dealing with PSA members. I could point to agreed processes to resolve issues where managers weren’t being respectful or fair with staff. As a delegate I could add value to my colleagues at work and that felt good.


Where were you brought up?

I was brought up in Northland in a very small place called Matakohe, near Ruawai. Most people from Ruawai went straight on the farm and milked cows or picked kumara. My grades were high enough to go to university so I left Matakohe and went to Massey.  


And you now live near Wellington with your family?

I live in Titahi Bay, near Porirua. My wife Toni is a vet and I met her in Palmerston North. We decided to get married before we went to the UK. We spent six years overseas and travelled around the world. We had the best time visiting about 50 countries. Then we decided to come home and have a family. We have a 9-year-old boy, Ariki, a six-year-old Aria, then Miriama who’s just turned five and Awatea who’s two. They all go to a full-immersion kura. It’s really neat to see them fluent in Maori. I’m not fluent but I’m learning.


What do you like doing in your spare time?

I love playing and watching sport and I enjoy the beach. I really enjoy entertaining people.  I like it when you mix people with food.


What do you cook them?

I like making seafood. Anything and everything seafood. My favourite thing – it’s the Kiwi boy in me – is to perfectly cook a steak and then fill it with succulent seafood sauteed in butter and garlic. And maybe a creamy mushroom sauce to go with it. Yum.


And the perfect holiday?

The perfect holiday for me is food, family, friends and new places. Travelling with my wife and meeting new people and eating new foods. I enjoy just relaxing, though my wife is very different. I think Toni has been to every castle in the UK – and I think I have visited every chippie next to a castle.


What’s your philosophy for life?

I love challenges and new opportunities. I try to focus on the positive of things and I truly celebrate success, even if it’s the French beating the All Blacks. Whether it’s a child lost in the bush and being found or it’s Obama winning and seeing the delight of his followers and hearing his speech – people doing good things or having good things done to them are worth celebrating. The sad things in life galvanise me to work harder for others.


This article is from the December 2012 issue of the PSA Journal. You can read back issues of the Journal by clicking here.