New Te Pūkenga leaders bring academic and business acumen 

May 24, 2023 | 7 min read

Te Pūkenga has today announced the appointment of three sector leaders who will shape and drive regional operations. 

“I’m delighted to today appoint Darren Mitchell (Ngāti Kahungunu), Megan Pōtiki (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe Waitaha and Te Ātiawa) Tumu Whenua ā-Rohe 4 | Executive Director, Region 4,” says Gus Gilmore, Pourangi Ako | DCE Ako Delivery.  

“I’m also pleased to announce that Kieran Hewitson (Ngāti Porou, Te Whanau-ā-Apanui) has agreed to be our first Tumu Whenua ā-Rohe 2 | Executive Director, Region 2. We are actively recruiting for Kieran’s co-lead.  

“Darren and Megan will be co-leaders for our operational Rohe 4 | Region 4 which includes Te Tai Poutini West Coast, Waitaha Canterbury, Ōtākou Otago and Murihiku Southland. 

“Kieran is the first of two co-leaders for our operational Rohe 2 | Region 2 which covers Waikato, Waiariki Bay of Plenty, Te Tai Rāwhiti and Te Matau-a-Māui Hawke’s Bay. 

“We have exceptional leaders right across Te Pūkenga and I’ve been delighted with the depth of talent that is stepping up into these critical roles. 

“Megan brings strong academic experience and Darren has strong business and commercial acumen. They will complement each other and will be successful co-leaders in Rohe 4.  

“In Rohe 2, Kieran brings deep academic experience with particular focus on quality assurance. She is a proven leader in our sector and will be a welcome addition to my executive team in Ako Delivery. 

Darren is currently General Manager for Ara | Te Pūkenga while Megan is Manukura Tuarua - Mana Taurite/Deputy Chief Executive Partnership and Equity at Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga. Kieran Hewitson is currently Director Tiriti Practice at Te Pūkenga. 

“Te Pūkenga has four operational regions and will have regional co-leads in each. These roles are a key way we will put into action the partnership between Māori and Te Pūkenga,” says Mr Gilmore. 

“Together each pair will lead their region’s kaimahi to transform the way vocational education and training is delivered. They will build partnerships with Hapū, Iwi, employers, local communities and stakeholders, including Regional Skills Leadership Groups. 

“To begin with they’ll be responsible for online and on campus delivery, but they’ll work closely with the WBL Managing Director and our work-based learning kaimahi. 

“They will work closely with our rohe 1 co-leads Toa Faneva, Peseta Sam Lotu-liga and rohe 3 co-leads Olivia Hall and Mark Oldershaw. 

Darren Mitchell has been at Ara for 22 years, having started in 2001 as Finance Manager, then moving through the ranks to become Chief Executive in 2021. He is a trustee of the Ara Foundation, the Ōtautahi Education Development Trust, and of World Skills New Zealand, and is a member of Te Papa Hauora | Health Precinct Advisory Council and the Canterbury Regional Skills Leadership Group. He is passionate about the transformative power of education. 

“It’s an immense privilege to be a small part of guiding and supporting people to achieve a better life for themselves, their whānau and their communities. I look forward to working together with Megan to maintain and build strong partnerships and relationships throughout the rohe to deliver the people and skills that our region and communities need to thrive,” says Mr Mitchell. 

Megan has taught in various institutions over many years, including Queens High School, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (prior to it merging with Aoraki to become Ara), University of Canterbury and University of Otago. She was appointed DCE Partnership and Equity at Otago Polytechnic early in 2022. She holds a number of governance roles, including at the Dunedin City Council and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.  

“I am excited to work with Darren and learn from his breadth of skills. I know we will complement each other well. I am particularly excited about leading and working with kaimahi and ākonga within our region,” says Ms Pōtiki. 

“I'm an Otago girl. My bones are on the land here. I'm passionate about our region and I think there's a uniqueness to each region that needs to be really considered. Kai te hikaka katoa ahau kia mahi tahi me tōku iwi kia eke whakamua tātou mō kā uri ā muri ake nei.  

“This is about ensuring that vocational education is relevant and accessible for all people in Aotearoa – but with a very real focus on Region 4 in Te Waipounamu.”  

Kieran has been working in education for close to 30 years, initially teaching before moving into education management, working at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa for a number of years prior to moving to the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic in 2014 and taking up the role of Director Education and Māori Development. After holding a number of senior roles at Toi Ohomai, Kieran was seconded into the Director of Quality role at Te Pūkenga before moving over to the Partnership and Equity Team (now Tiriti Outcomes) where she currently is the Kaikōkiri Tiriti Practices. Kieran has held a number of external governance roles and is currently the co-chair of the Te Pūkenga Academic Board. 

Kieran is a passionate educationalist and especially enjoys the vocational education field, she is excited about the opportunity that bringing all the former Industry Training Organisations and Polytechnics together provides for our ākonga, industry partners, iwi, hapū and communities.  

“Having lived in the Waikato for over 20 years, being from Te Tairawhiti, having a daughter who whakapapa’s to Kahungunu and living in the Bay of Plenty, I have strong connections and a resolute desire to ensure we are meeting the workforce development needs in the region,” says Ms Hewitson. 

The interview panel for Rohe 4 included: 

  • Peter Winder, Tumuaki | Chief Executive Officer, Te Pūkenga 
  • Gus Gilmore, Pourangi Ako | DCE Ako Delivery, Te Pūkenga 
  • Paora Ammunson, Pourangi Hua Tiriti | DCE Tiriti Outcomes, Te Pūkenga 
  • Mananui Ramsden, Alternative Representative, Te Rūnanga o Koukourarata 
  • Tania Wati, Representative, Te Ngāi Tūāhuriri Rūnanga 

The interview panel that appointed Kieran included Peter Winder, Gus Gilmore and Keri-Anne Tane (Pourangi Tangata | Chief People Officer). We expect to have iwi representatives on the panel appointing her co-lead and are finalising the recruitment for that role. We expect to make an appointment in the coming weeks.