King’s Service Medal for Kat Kaiwai

Kirste Floyd Civil, News, Ultimit / Women in Infrastructure

Kat Kaiwai has been honoured with a King’s Service Medal for services to women and the civil construction industry.

Kat, who has been a strong supporter of Connexis Girls With Hi-Vis® and a huge advocate for the opportunities offered by training and apprenticeships, is the owner of Tairawhiti Contractors in Ruatoria, on the East Coast.

With her team of 38 – half of whom are women – at Tairawhiti Contractors, Kat was instrumental in helping East Coast communities re-connect in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle.

On receiving the Kings Service Medal Kat told local newspaper the Gisborne Herald, the award was testament to the collective hard work of those around here.

“This signifies a commitment to service. Service to our whānau, our communities and our country – a value that I hold dear and that is instilled in my whānau.

“In my endeavours, I have always strived to uphold this principle, believing that true fulfilment comes from contributing to something greater than oneself,” she said.

“My grandmother Mate Kaiwai (nee Ngata) received a Queens Service Order in 2004 for her service and dedication to our people.

My great-grandfather Sir Apirana Ngata served our whānau, region and country also.

“Serving our people is in my DNA.”

Kat started her career at a desk job in Wellington, before getting her first taste of civil infrastructure in admin for Fulton Hogan. But it wasn’t too long before she decided she wanted a change, getting out from behind a desk and into the field.

From that moment, Kat began work-based training, something she sees as a lifelong commitment. She earned her tickets to work on much of the heavy gear used in road maintenance and within four years was embarking on her Civil Apprenticeship with Connexis. Unable to decide between the optional strands of her qualification, and unwilling to narrow down her career options, Kat chose to do all four.

Kat, who is also a qualified Connexis training assessor says she particularly enjoys opening the eyes of young women to career possibilities they may not have considered.

 “It’s great to show them they can do this and still have the other things they might want, like having children. The mindset is really changing,” Kat says.

She is also a big believer in how success for some helps encourage others.

“When I did my training, people thought ‘oh my god she did that by herself, as well as running a business and being a mum’. It does help get other people on the bandwagon.” 

In announcing Kat’s King’s Service Medal, Māori Development Minister Tama Potaka said her devotion to improving the lives of the people in her community was an inspiration.

“Katareina’s innovation is a testament to the strength of wāhine Māori taking leadership roles in driving the growth key to rebuilding our economy,” he said.