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“Inspire Group went above and beyond for us in so many ways. I've really enjoyed working with the Inspire Group team, they’re super impressive, structured and organised, and they’ve shown a real passion for this project. I would absolutely recommend them to anyone who asks.”

Michael Power, Learning Business Partner, Watercare


In 2022, Watercare decided to create a te reo and tikanga Māori learning programme for their team. Learning Business Partner Michael Power explains, “It's part of our values to embed te reo and tikanga Māori throughout the company. We're a council organisation and Auckland Council is committed to promoting Māori culture. So, we want to lead the way by seeing and hearing te reo Māori throughout Watercare and honouring tikanga Māori.”

“Our Māori outcomes team, Te Rua Whetū, asked if I could support the project from a learning point of view. I helped them with a learning needs analysis, put structures in place to have regular check-ins and helped them find a learning design partner in Inspire Group.”

The Watercare team works in locations as diverse as their head office in Newmarket to their laboratories, and water and wastewater treatment plants. This means the learning programme has to be ultra accessible for anyone, anywhere, anytime. 

Michael says, “Everything must be easy to access and easy to absorb. We can't make the programme too difficult because many people, me included, are starting off with a very basic knowledge of te reo and tikanga Māori. We’ve a lot of people at Watercare who didn't go to school in New Zealand, weren't brought up with te reo, and who have English as their second language. And that adds another layer of difficulty when it comes to learning a new language.”


Watercare want to teach their team the basics of te reo and tikanga Māori while also ensuring they have an understanding of the why behind the programme. Michael says, “We don't just want people to be able to copy the sounds of a waiata. We want them to have the cultural awareness to begin to appreciate the richness of Māori culture.”

Michael enjoys Inspire Group’s collaborative approach to co-creating learning. Michael says, “The first thing Inspire Group did was organise a brainstorming and thought-sharing session to make sure we were all on the same page. They really wanted to ask questions, listen, and understand. They didn't try and force any of their learning concepts or principles onto us, they were very open and accommodating to our needs and where we’re at. I really appreciated that.”
Senior Learning Designer Aaron Cluka was our project lead. He summarises why Watercare’s te reo and tikanga Māori learning programme was such a timely project for Inspire Group. 

“We’ve been on a journey, partnering with mana whenua to understand how we can better approach all our projects with a bicultural lens. So, we were keen to do everything authentically, to challenge ourselves and our process. That began with us all being more considered about showing manaakitanga and embracing whanaungatanga, or connection, as a key part of the journey, by taking the time to give more of ourselves. We also challenged ourselves to bring more te reo into the conversations, which required us being vulnerable enough to get it wrong.” 


Watercare’s akoranga, or learning programme, is the start of a kete of resources Watercare will build over time. The programme consists of two eLearning modules, podcasts, and videos. The eLearning is designed as apps, so learners can access the info they need instantly, anywhere. The apps contain audio, giving the learners the chance to hear the sounds of the Māori language, as well as waiata and karakia. While the podcast and videos show learners how their fellow kaimahi, or workers, are bringing te reo and tikanga Māori into Watercare. 

The introductory piece of Watercare’s new programme is critical to set the scene. Aaron says, “We wanted to give a really great introduction because everyone’s at a different stage of their journey towards using te reo and tikanga Māori. Some are even resistant to start. So, we wanted to set the scene, explain what Watercare expects, and give people tools to begin that journey, in the form of a multimodal resource they could come back to many times.”

With only a fraction of Watercare staff in an office, and many people out in the field or at treatment plants, a multi-layered, mobile-friendly learning programme is essential. There’s a strong audio component to the programme because when you’re teaching a language, spoken pronunciation is key. There are also audio files of waiata, so people can sing along and learn the words, as well recordings of karakia. If people need a quick reminder of how to do their mihi, or a waiata or karakia for a meeting, those resources are at their fingertips.

The learning material and the learning approach were developed in collaboration with Michael, Te Rua Whetū, and Auckland Council’s reo Māori specialist Nikora Wharerau. 

Michael explains this wasn’t always straightforward. “Our thinking on the programme content and the learning approach evolved as we worked on the programme. So, Inspire Group has had to be very flexible to meet those needs. But they’ve been unbelievably willing to do that. They've been uber accommodating and I've been so impressed by that. I rate the way Inspire Group collaborate and partner exceptionally highly.”



The new learning programme is about to be launched to the Watercare team. Michael says, “We don’t just want to put the course up online and send out an email. We want to mark the importance of this launch to Watercare, so we’re going to hold a celebration, with speakers sharing what it means to them to see and hear more te reo used every day. 

“I’m delighted we’ve done this. It feels right. And hopefully it will help people be a little bit more comfortable using te reo because it can be quite confronting at first. Inspire Group are awesome, they went above and beyond for us in so many ways. I've really enjoyed working with the Inspire Group team, they’re super impressive, structured and organised, and they’ve shown a real passion for this project. I would absolutely recommend them to anyone who asks. Ultimately the proof of the pudding is in the second helping, so we've just appointed Inspire Group to create a new leadership programme for the Watercare team.” 

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