Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu is delighted to congratulate Tia Potae for winning the inaugural Primary Industries award in the 2021 New Zealand Women of Influence awards, which were announced last night. The Women of Influence awards recognise the exceptional achievements of women, and the new Primary Industries category acknowledges leaders and innovators whose work is having a positive influence in the primary production sector.

Pouārahi Helen Leahy is beyond proud to see Ms Potae recognised on the national stage for her achievements and contributions to the sector. A top wool handler and wool classer, she was recruited into the role of Whānau Ora Navigator when COVID-19 first appeared on our scenes in March 2020. Based at Tokomairiro Waiora in Milton, Ms Potae became an amazing ambassador for whānau in rural communities.

“Tia has been in the shearing industry all her life, representing New Zealand in wool handling in 2005 and 2013. Her contribution to Whānau Ora; to rural wellbeing; to healthy shearing sheds, is remarkable”, says Ms Leahy. “Alongside former Navigator Manukura Serena Lyders, she developed an online service for wool, forestry and fishing industry workers who find it difficult to access services after hours.”

Ms Potae’s background meant that she was well-equipped to provide a service that would meet the specific needs of the industry.

“She knew the people; she had lived experience of the world that shearers inhabit, and because of that she was uniquely placed to support that closeknit community in gaining better access to health and social services,” says Ms Leahy.

Ms Potae has a small business, Taki Toru Woolshed Services, where she runs her own training programme. In 2018 she wrote a training booklet, and over the years has been contracted to training entities such as Elite Wool Industry Training and WOMOlife to support their training regimes.

“We are beyond proud of this fabulous wahine toa – a woman who has given so much to so many – she is brave; she is fearless and she is utterly resolute about supporting whānau to navigate better futures for them and their mokopuna,” says Ms Leahy.