Ko Wai Tātau | We are Water. Water Services Industry, Workforce Development and Activation Strategy


Water is the essence of all life. According to Te Ao Māori, the wellbeing of water is the same as the wellbeing of people. We are as healthy as our water.

Ko Wai tātau / We Are Water is a workforce development and activation strategy for the Water Services Industry (WSI).

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  • A perfect storm is brewing for the water sector in New Zealand. Against a backdrop of growing demand, social pressures, increasing regulation, and environmental expectations, the WSI in New Zealand is facing infrastructure deficit, skills deficit, and labour shortages. Investment is needed now to attract, train and retain a workforce with the capacity to deliver transformational change. Our design challenge: How might we uncover the potential of the water industry to make it a ‘Plan A’ career path? Ko Wai Tātau is a research project that uncovers the potential of water careers and seeks ways to address its workforce challenges.

  • Assurity conducted targeted baseline research, including qualitative interviews to deeply understand the problems, opportunities, and realities faced by workers and employers in the water industry. Data and insights were consolidated into a workforce development strategy document with 14 recommendations that were collaboratively workshopped with industry representatives. We then co-designed and tested solutions for achieving the desired future-state workforce. Māori linguists created the whakaaro, name, and brand story based on the idea of interconnectedness. Artist Graham Tipene incorporated Matauranga Māori into the design by using whakarare to talk about disruption and unity to find common solutions.

  • Ko Wai Tātau was impactful in three key ways: 1. Providing direction to government and industry organisations on improving key workforce metrics 2. Through the project activation work, providing tools and media assets that are in use by industry for workforce initiatives and engaging with potential industry entrants 3. Opening a powerful national dialogue about the pressing need to build solutions to the shortfall in workers needed to improve New Zealand’s water services

  • We engaged a trio of Māori linguistic experts to create the whakaaro, name, and brand story. The identity was inspired by the concept that ‘we are all interconnected’: A drop of water rippling on the surface of a pond produces waves of energy that radiate outward in a circular motion. One drop acts as a beacon of light. One person, one thought. If we become the circle, and we are of like mind, one intention, the circle emanates ripples of energy that can change the world. Tāmaki Makaurau-based artist Graham Tipene (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Haua, Ngāti Manu), incorporated mātauranga Māori into the design by using whakarare to talk about disruption and change and coming together to find a common solution.