Our PSA Kaumātua is stepping down from his duties after a lifetime of mahi for our union and Māori workers.
Kiwhare Mihaka says he had wanted to be part of a union that was strong for Māori since he began working as a linesman at the State Hydro Department in 1959.
In the 1980s, the corporatisation of the electricity industry put about 365 jobs under threat in Dunedin where he was a delegate.
“I rang Marsden Point to ask if they were taking on any workers. They ended up taking 286 workers... I was very glad to help find them mahi,” he remembers.
TIKANGA AND TE REO
In 1986 Kiwhare became the PSA Kaumātua and was a founding member of the PSA Rūnanga, Te Rūnanga o Ngā Toa Āwhina.
Since then he has become a familiar figure at PSA events, making sure he was there for the duration of every hui to ensure correct tikanga was followed.
“He has sat quietly there and would stay to the end to do karakia,” PSA Kuia Georgina Kerr says.
“Our skills complemented each other, mine was union knowledge, his was deep knowledge of tikanga. I’m really going to miss that.”
Kiwhare has also been a driving force behind choosing many Te Reo Māori terms used by the PSA, including the Māori name for the union, Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi.
“The name captures the concept of skilled people coming together to create good conditions and ways of working,” he explained at the time.
He has been a mentor to rangatahi and those coming through the ranks of the union, sharing his knowledge during Maranga Mai delegate training.
In 2008 Kiwhare became the Kaumātua for the Council of Trade Unions. There he was involved in the development of He Takawaenga, a relationship document between the CTU and its Rūnanga, which outlined treaty expectations.
CTU Rūnanga co-convenor Laures Park says Kiwhare represents stability. “He is humble and quiet but will speak up if something is being discussed.”
CTU President Richard Wagstaff says he’s also valued Kiwhare’s wisdom and support. “He has given so much to unions.”
Kiwhare is taking a step back from his union roles due to ill health, and is looking forward to spending more time with his whānau.
A celebration of his massive contribution to the union movement was held in March, with PSA and CTU leaders and PSA Rūnanga members in attendance.
“It was a wonderful celebration for all of us, from where we were, to where we are now. I’m proud of our achievements, being there for our members, the Rūnanga and the CTU,” Kiwhare says.
Whaea Georgina says Kiwhare's departure is a huge loss but kaumātua never really retire.
“I still talk with him all the time. But we are working through a process to find others who can step in and help fill those big shoes.”
Our home support workers have some of the worst employment conditions in New Zealand, and the PSA is determined to help change that with a Fair Pay Agreement (FPA).
The PSA welcomes the Climate Change Commission’s advice that workers and unions help design a strategy that ensures the costs of transitioning to a low-emissions Aotearoa are shared fairly.