Boat building scholarship opportunity for Te Whakatōhea

By Regan Paranihi

The Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board and Whakatōhea Mussels have teamed up with world-class Kiwi boat building company McMullen and Wing to build an innovative new vessel.  The project is an opportunity for local youth to get on board a hands-on learning experience of boat building.

The company McMullen and Wing are well-known for their yachts and commercial vessels, with one being the triumphant 1995 America’s Cup boat NZL32 or 'Black Magic'.  They have up to six scholarships on offer for local school-leavers to learn about boat building by assisting with building the new vessel.

Michael Eaglen, CEO of McMullen and Wing says, “McMullen and Wing has a proud history of innovation and partnership.  We’re now taking that to a new level with Whakatōhea Mussels and the Whakatōhea Maori Trust Board.  Not only will we build a fantastic custom-made vessel for them, we will have their young people actually in the factory building it, and building great careers for themselves.”   

Eaglen says the Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board, who are also the major stakeholders in the mussel farming business, are motivated to create sustainable high-quality job opportunities for the local people of Opotiki.  He adds that the opportunity they are offering the young people will open up a career pathway in an industry where skill shortages are dominant.

“We are giving these young people the chance to start a life-long vocation,” says Mr. Eaglen.  “My hope is that our trainees will find extra satisfaction through their and their families’ own personal connection to this project and that the satisfaction and pride they feel will anchor their work ethic and ultimately set them up for long-term success.”

Whakatōhea Mussels Chief Executive Peter Vitasovich says employment options in Opotiki are limited and that he is pleased with McMullen and Wing’s commitment to supporting their vision for the region.

“We’re working hard in the region to grow opportunities for our people and we are thrilled McMullen & Wing have this vision to use our project to help us expand the options even more broadly,” says Vitasovich.

The aquaculture vessel is expected to launch in September 2018.