BUSINESS FOCUSED FOR COMMUNITY OUTCOMES
Horticulture and arborist services. Various commercial contracts including light engineering, repetitive production and packaging tasks and mail outs.
Access open employment
We will support you and provide the stepping stones to accessing open employment
We provide individually-tailored support to people to enable them to participate and contribute to their communities in ways valued by them and their communities.
Chairman of the Atawhai Trust
We’re very proud of our staff and clients, who all work as a unified team which performs exceptionally well under the strong leadership of our general manager Steve Hales.
I would also like to acknowledge the fine work done by our Stepping Stones co-ordinator Linda Alldridge, who has placed so many clients into open employment. To see the empathy between the staff and clients is amazing and certainly attributes to the success we enjoy.
Over the years we’ve sought meaningful work for clients, which has resulted in us being involved in many activities, but society changes rapidly and therefore we have had to as well. As a result we are now involved in a more diverse range of activities, from renovation and on-selling of household items such as timber trays and bowls to participation in community recreational and cultural pursuits.
Every time we employ or place a client, we not only enhance their lives, but we contribute to New Zealand by saving the taxpayer money, something which isn’t always adequately recognised by the authorities.
Finally, I would like to thank the many companies, organisations and individuals who support us. Without your help, we wouldn’t be able to help clients.
I’m very proud of the role Atawhai Industries plays in the New Plymouth community. We’re a non-profit organisation and as trustees we’re motivated to look after people with intellectual disabilities, and to see them making the best of their lives. That is all the reward we need.
The names and titles from left to right are as follows: Paul Anderson (Trustee), Noel Titchener (Trustee), Netta Burnside (Deputy Chairperson), Clive Pryme (Trustee), Gary Brown (Chairman), Peter Ertel (Trustee)
General Manager Atawhai Industries Trust
Since the Trust started operating in 1987 we’ve learned a few things about helping people with disabilities to live an ordinary life. One of the keys to helping clients is a simple one. When someone walks through our doors, we don’t see their disability and what they can’t do, but what they can do. That’s an attitude the community needs to take on. In many ways, it’s about giving people a chance and that’s what this trust is all about.
For clients who access our services we are a stepping stone into employment, community-based activities, skills/personal development and more. I’m very proud of our staff, both past and present, who recognise that everyone has the potential to do something in the way of work, or developing social skills which develop pathways to employment and the community. We don’t put people in cotton wool or treat them with kid gloves; people are people. We don’t treat people differently because they have a disability. Nor do they want us to.
I’ve been here since 1989, and became the general manager in 1997. Trust staff members tend to stay long term; in fact the average stay is about 17 years. Having long term staff is good for our client base; clients are working with people they know. At the moment we have 35-40 staff, including nine senior full-time staff members. The Trust is contracted by MSD to provide services to 140 clients. We are grateful to the Ministry for their ongoing support.
I would also like to acknowledge the role of our devoted trustees. They are very supportive, and one of the reasons I’ve stayed so long is because we have a close, mutually respectful relationship and that works very well for everyone connected to the organisation.
Co-ordinator Stepping Stones Employment Service
“One is vocational services and the other is the supported employment contract,’’ says Linda. “We are contracted to find clients work for a minimum of five hours a week, earning at least the minimum wages. In keeping with Atawhai’s trust deed, our clients have an intellectual or learning disability. It really is a stepping stone in many ways. Having it under Atahwai’s umbrella means we really do get to know the people, the community and employers, as well as the rest of the staff.
We provide clients with ongoing support, which could range from supporting them at interview, through to keeping in close contact with client and employer. We get to know our clients very well and it’s imperative to find the right match. The reality is we need more employers to contact us. As an example, Pak ‘N Save are wonderful employers and we have several clients employed there.
"I’ve placed a large number of clients into paid employment in the last decade. For me the ultimate satisfaction is to get a client happy in work and a satisfied employer.’’
After 10 years as the full-time co-ordinator of the Stepping Stones employment service, Linda Alldridge still finds the job immensely satisfying. The initiative consists of two contracts which are delivered on behalf of the Ministry of Social Development.
His business card says it all; ‘’Nigel Cash, All-round good guy.’’ His boss, Atawhai Industries general manager Steve Hales says the description is both accurate and justified. “If I want something done I just go and see him, there’s never any problems.’’ Now a valued member of the management team, Steve recalls it wasn’t always that way.
“When Nigel first came here he was probably still in a schoolboy frame of mind. He didn’t really know much about work, or safety or expectations, but it didn’t take us too long to work out that he had a lot of in-built skills. He learnt really fast and he likes responsibility. Back in the days of forestry, Nigel spent a couple of years there and started to take crews of four or five people out by himself in the truck. He had a full licence, was doing all of the quality control, forestry planting, pruning and thinning and we got him tickets for chainsaw use.’’
In 1997, when Steve took over as General Manager, things changed dramatically for Nigel. “I
realised he was only getting $10 a day, attendance allowance, because
he was on a full benefit. I knew that wasn’t right, so put him up to
full wages – which was more than the minimum wage too. Some said at the time we couldn’t afford it, I said ‘we can’t afford not to’.’’
In 2001 Atawhai moved out of forestry work, but kept Nigel on. Steve says he’s “a very good asset’’ and has never been back on a benefit since. “It was easy to teach him other aspects of our business, so he worked in the horticultural department and still did some tree work, gardening and a lot more. He also ran our bread sales department, and now manages the engineering department as well.‘’
Now 41, Nigel has worked at Atawhai for more than 20 years. His journey is one he’s proud of. “When I started in forestry, I was just a boy, a worker, then I got asked to help run and supervise teams. So it was really good when Steve put me on full pay. It made me feel like I achieved something. It was a turning point in my life. I’ve never been on a benefit since and I never would. Having been through special needs all the way through school some of my school mates dissed me, and now I look at what they’re doing and what I’m doing, it makes me feel really, really good.”
When he started work at Atawhai, Nigel lived with his mum. Now he and his partner have bought their own home where they live with their five year old daughter. His sense of pride is obvious: “I did it all myself. I spoke to Steve and Linda as homeowners for advice, but I did it all myself.’’
Just as obvious is his gratitude to Atawhai. “This place helped me get into the fire service as well. I’m second in charge of running the operations-support unit. I’m a good all-round guy for them as well and will do anything. I’ve been in the fire brigade for 20 years now. I started there not long after I got the hang of things at Atawhai. It gave me a lot of skills, working here.‘’
The last word belongs to Atawhai chairman Gary Brown. “Nigel is an
example of someone who came into the trust as a client and we’ve
nurtured him to the point where he is now one of our senior staff.
That’s a good illustration of what can happen.’’ “We were particularly inspired by Nigel’s journey as a client through to becoming a manager within the business.’’