Irihapeti Bullmore was tearful and smiling from one moment to the next as she took centre stage at a mihi whakatau, marking the start of her new role with Ryman Healthcare.
Irihapeti, Ryman's first cultural kaitiaki or navigator, was given a collective Ryman Christchurch welcome. She was joined by whānau, fellow iwi members and a Canterbury-based Māori community collective from many walks of life.
There were ukulele players from a Birdlings Flat musical group, her children, her brother and a host of wahine, some that knew her from previous work places.
The mihi whakataū, traditionally used for welcoming, introductions, openings and some off-the-marae events, included welcoming words by many Rymanians including Ryman Group Chief Executive Richard Umbers.
“Irihapeti is our cultural navigator and her appointment recognises the importance we place on tikanga Māori and our Te Tiririti partnership with manu whenua…,” Richard said.
“(Also) I’d like to acknowledge her predecessor – Dame Aroha Rereti-Crofts – who passed away a few short weeks ago.”
Dame Aroha, ”from just down the road at Tuahiwi, near Kaiapoi”, was part of the Ngai Tahu iwi and championed her people, in particular, wahine Māori, Richard said today. She spent some of later years in Ryman’s Margaret Stoddart Retirement Village.
Dame Aroha’s baton was being passed to Irihapeti, Richard said.
Chief Strategy Officer Mary-Anne Stone said it was right for Irihapeti to be welcomed with the gathering. “Your role will help Ryman become stronger through our growing knowledge and practice of tikanga Māori.
“This is a new skillset for us, and it is a wonderful season to begin (your role),” Mary-Anne said, referring to the recent celebration of Māori New Year.
Everyone then sang the waiata – Te Aroha, before senior executives from Ryman and various iwi members talked of their own family histories and experiences with Irihapeti.
Irihapeti acknowledged her whānau and Dame Aroha. “I stand on this platform, a sacred platform… in honour and recognition of Dame Aroha… who forged the way as many of our whanau do.”
She spoke of a long tradition of people coming together in unity, and said this would continue to happen with iwi members and Ryman. “It’s about the collective and coming together in unity that we can actually achieve. You can achieve what you need, and we can achieve what we need. And that’s really exciting for us today to be given this chance to see how well we’re going to marry up.”
As a cultural navigator, Irihapeti is Ryman’s Taha Māori Kaitiaki.