Tane Huata ASA looks back with gratitude on the series of unexpected twists and turns that have presented themselves along his chosen career path.
Tane Huata ASA used to dream about making movies for a living. His vision had him busking on the streets with his guitar, while he worked on breaking into the film industry.
More than a decade on, Huata is now firmly focused on managing the commercial portfolio of the NZ$105 million (A$98 million) Heretaunga Tamatea Settlement Trust, the result of the 2015 historical settlement between the Maori people of Heretaunga Tamatea and the NZ Government as a redress for historical wrongs.
He may not have set out to make his career in finance, but Huata believes the twists and turns along his path were needed to prepare him for his role with the Settlement Trust.
It is a role that holds significant importance to his family and community. As the Settlement Trust’s commercial analyst, Huata has helped develop the investment policy, objectives and strategy, create an investment framework and scorecard, as well as conduct the due diligence that comes with assessing new commercial opportunities.
“Moving to the Settlement Trust was a career highlight for me,” Huata says. “I wanted something dynamic, where I felt I was making a difference, and something I could feel passionately about.”
Family responsibility and connection have influenced Huata’s entire career. After leaving school, he spent a gap year overseas, but his “feather-in-the-wind” adventure ended at the urging of his mother.
She believed it was time for her son to get a qualification behind him, so Huata returned to New Zealand and enrolled in film school.
In 2011, when his younger sister headed off to university, Huata decided to join her.
Coming from a family of seven, all with university degrees, he didn’t want to be the only one without one, and he figured his aspirations to start his own business – perhaps a music recording studio – would have a better chance of success if he improved his business acumen.
“I knew I didn’t want to be one of those people who got ripped off because they didn’t know what they were doing,” says Huata. “I thought the course that would give me the best leverage and understanding of how business works was accounting.”
Huata had enjoyed accounting and economics in high school, not because he loved numbers, but because he loved the stories behind the data.
His first year of the bachelor of business degree at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) was going well, but when his parents lost their Auckland business and moved back to their hometown of Hastings, Huata dropped out and went door-to-door selling, so that he could support his sister through her studies.
He didn’t return to university until two years later, after the offer of a scholarship from the university’s Maori liaison office. “I feel very grateful I was given that opportunity by AUT,” Huata says.
While studying, Huata fundraised for Greenpeace and took a university placement in the environmental advocacy organisation’s finance department, at times getting involved in environmental activism campaigns.
When he was in the final months of his degree, Huata’s mum quietly put his name forward for an auditor’s job in Hastings. This is how, within three days of finishing university, Huata joined accounting firm Baker Tilly Staples Rodway.
His mum had also successfully nominated Huata for the inaugural CPA Māori Scholarship.
“At the time, I didn’t think I was going to continue my accounting career,” Huata says. “I was going to sing some songs and busk on the streets for my living. Then I won the inaugural CPA scholarship and thought, ‘Oh well, I’d better keep going’.”
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Falling into place
Huata hadn’t enjoyed auditing as a university course, but says he loved its real-world application, as it gave him a holistic view of how organisations operate. He also appreciated the openness and willingness of his employer to take up his offer to teach some of his Maori language through weekly emails across the company nationwide.
“I’d seen an article about Maori children suffering trauma from teachers not being able to say their name correctly, and that really rang a bell for me, because that’s been the case all my life. For Maori, these names are our ancestors, and we embody them in the present, but carry their prestige from the past in our names.”
The most rewarding shift in Huata’s career came in February 2020, when he was made senior commercial analyst for the Heretaunga Tamatea Settlement Trust. Again, his mother was influential in the appointment.
The Settlement Trust had wanted a member of the community to be involved in the commercial decisions and approached Huata’s parents to ask which one of their children would be the best fit.
“Mum is probably the reason I am anywhere, to be honest,” says Huata. “She had a vision for me that I would be managing the iwi [tribe] assets and, because of her, everything in my career has just fitted together like a puzzle.”
He says it was difficult to leave Auckland, where he had good friends and a great lifestyle, but he realised it was time he began investing in his career, so he made the move to Hastings and took that first auditing job.
“If I hadn’t taken it, I wouldn’t have opened that door for myself,” he says. “Now the door is open, I feel there are so many possibilities for where my career can go from here.
“If you had asked me in my first year as an auditor if I could say the same thing, I don’t think I could. I feel I am in a position now where I can start looking at the stars. At some point I’ll be a chief executive. I know it.”
One piece of advice
“You have to back yourself. If you feel like you are not ready for the role, or the right person for the job, you have to find a way to believe in yourself, or the self-doubt will hold you back.”