Recognition leaves award winner ‘overwhelmed’


A South Otago wool industry stalwart has won a top national women’s award.

Winners of the Women of Influence Awards were announced via Zoom last week, including top Milton woolhandler Tia Potae, who won the primary industries category.

Ms Potae was recognised not only for her longstanding professional excellence, but also for her more recent work improving access to health and social services for workers employed in primary industries.

Reacting to the honour earlier this week, she said she was genuinely shocked to receive the award.

‘‘I was up against some really good ladies who’ve done some amazing things, so I just feel overwhelmed and very grateful.

‘‘A huge thank you to all those including Tokomairiro Waiora who have helped and supported me during the past two years.’’

In 2005 and 2013 Ms Potae represented New Zealand on the international stage inwoolhandling, and subsequently established her own small business, Taki Toru Woolshed Services, offering training programmes.

In 2018, Ms Potae wrote a training booklet, and over the years she has been contracted to training entities such as Elite Wool Industry Training and WOMOlife to support their training regimes.

In 2020, she became a rural navigator for Tokomairiro Waiora, a Maori health service providing whanau ora (family health) services in South Otago.

During the 2020 lockdown, she helped develop an online service for wool, forestry and fishing industry workers who found it difficult to access services after hours, and has helped workers access the wage subsidy scheme.

The rural navigator programme was a response to a Te Putahitanga o Te Waipounamu 2019 survey of wool harvesters, which found they needed better access to health and social services.

Ms Potae and Serena Lyders, of Tokanui, worked together to formulate the programme.

At the time, Ms Lyders said of her colleague, ‘‘She is an amazing woman and I needed to find someone who was special, who has been in the industry for a long time and whom the industry accepted.

‘‘They call her aunty, out of respect.’’