It can often be said that a change is as good as a holiday and when it comes to career change, Southern Institute of Technology Bachelor of Environmental Management student Riki Parata has seen plenty.
Following a year at Teachers College, he decided he wasn’t entirely suited to study and entered the workforce, where he ended up in the hospitality industry.
Riki wished to further his skills so enrolled and successfully completed the National Certificate of Cookery Level 1 and 2 at SIT.
He then went on to complete his Level 3 and 4 certificates whilst an apprentice chef in the North Island and then began travelling, utilising his trade.
“I lived and worked in Sydney, Australia for two years before venturing overseas, gaining a huge amount of culinary knowledge under some amazing chefs, mainly in France, England and Scandinavia,’’ he said.
“I returned to Australia in 2009 where I worked on the Gold Coast as Head Chef in a number of restaurants until I reluctantly gave into the call of the mining industry.”
Riki’s role as Chef Supervisor for an international catering and support services company led him to some of the most remote places in Australia, from Tasmania to Port Headland in Western Australia to the Whitsundays in Queensland.
He became interested in the production side of the mining industry, particularly the environmental impact being caused as he was fortunate to have worked at a variety of different sites, open pit and underground, including gold, coal, copper, tin and coal seam gas.
“After seeing first-hand the effects of the mining industry and the detrimental effects of ports, like Gladstone in Queensland, on the environment, I began to get concerned about New Zealand following the same trends, especially with more exploration in and around our beautiful country,’’ Riki said.
After speaking with environmental officers in the mining industry and listening to their views of how the environment always gave way to development, he decided he wanted to be part of the change which needed to occur.
Riki began researching environment courses in both Australia and New Zealand and came across the SIT website.
“The papers in the Environmental Management degree, the lure of whanau and zero fees at SIT led me to what I believe is the right choice for gaining education in this sector,’’ he said.
Throughout his studies, Riki has found the Environmental Management tutors and support staff invaluable.
“Their knowledge and enthusiasm to the course is outstanding and I feel that all the students are exceptionally lucky to have such an extensive range of global and local experiences on environmental issues,’’ he said.
Field trips were also a major draw card for Riki as he enjoys being out in the field and believes you can’t learn everything from inside the walls of a classroom.
“After being away from Southland for more than 10 years it was amazing to see the change in the environment,” he said.
“The course gives insight to the contributing factors to our environment and gives an excellent knowledge base to continue research and development in areas that we wish to be involved in.”
Riki was fortunate to be given the opportunity to be involved with the Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust’s work on Whenua Hou (Codfish Island), monitoring hoiho chick populations.
‘’It was an amazing experience and if anyone gets the chance to go there I highly recommend it,’’ he said. “It is one of those special places in New Zealand and even the world, as you can get a glimpse of what New Zealand would’ve, could and should be like.’’
Whenua Hou is a haven for our native flora and fauna species and it has the largest population of Kakapo in the world. Under the guidance of Sandra King, Riki and other Environmental Management students’ main role was to capture, weigh, measure, microchip and then release the chicks.
His main focus before starting the course was to be involved in industry as some form of environmental officer/consultant, but he feels this may have changed slightly.
“The more I learn, the more avenues I seem to be interested in,’’ Riki said. ‘’This course has opened career opportunities involving local council, DOC, Iwi and other non-government organisations.
“At this stage the learning is infectious and I know that this degree will help in the development of my career.”