Speaking Points to the Opening of New Facilities at the Auckland Campus of MAINZ, a division of Tai Poutini Polytechnic (TPP)

  • Pita Sharples

As I was getting ready for the day ahead, this morning I had a moment of utter genius as I thought about the possibility of picking up some whitebait for tea.   There's nothing quite as mouth-watering as a chunky whitebait fritter.

But then I came across two major snags in my plan.

For a start, white-baiting season finished a couple of months back.

But perhaps even more relevant is the fact that I wasn't actually flying to Hokitika today to give this official opening speech.

In fact, instead of hopping on a taxi and a plane and another plane and a car all the way to Greymouth, I was at Tai Poutini Polytechnic quicker than one could say ‘the white heron of Okarito'.

Learning that Tai Poutini has an outpost campus in Auckland was only one of many surprises that I have discovered along the way in preparing for the opening of this incredible new refitted Music and Audio Institute of New Zealand.

The true meaning of the word surprise, is to cause to feel wonder, astonishment or amazement.   It encapsulates all of the feelings that I have experienced the more I learnt about MAINZ.

In the context of the bitter political wrangling that has emerged in the debate around Maori seats on the Auckland Council, it is indeed wondrous to come to this campus and to understand the deep respect you have for your relationships with Ngati Whatua o Orakei.

I want to really commend the management of MAINZ who have made such a deep commitment to developing a relationship with Ngati Whatua.   

I am told also that there is a very strong bond between MAINZ and Ngati Roro o Rangi in Rotorua; a bond which has been strengthened through the role that MAINZ played in fund-raising activities to help rebuild the wharekai that was burned down some years ago.

The astonishment comes through an appreciation of the massive scope of the programmes being offered here at MAINZ including audio engineering, live sound, DJ and electronic music production, to music business courses in events, artist management, marketing and creative enterprise.

It seems like the performing arts have come a long way from a couple of guitars, some spoons, and a portable amp the size of a small fridge.

The amazement is that this humble institute, which opened in Greymouth over a decade ago with just ninety students has since expanded to approximately 3000 students in specialist campuses in Christchurch, Wanaka, Auckland, Hokitika, Reefton, and Westport.

And while we're talking about being amazed, it's just brilliant to look at the pathways that graduates have taken up upon completing the programme.  

In the recent Tui awards, the premier event to reward homegrown musical talent, Midnight Youth took out the Best Group Award and the Best Rock Album.   It probably goes without saying that Midnight Youth is driven by three former MAINZ students.

Former students have had success as performers, technicians and business managers.

The Live Sound students have been actively involved in running up to 19 separate gigs for the Smokefree Rockquest each year.

As I understand it your diploma programmes is designed in such a way that students can go on to study at universities if they so wish or graduate into the exciting new course in DJing and electronic music production.

I think that's what I love most about MAINZ.  It's not just about the building blocks of a music orientated career  - the theory and practice of recording and mixing music.

It's also an excellent preparatory ground for life.

It's about having the initiative and flair to take up new opportunities, and to develop business skills, to undertake a music orientated career.

Examples of that initiative are interspersed throughout the course.   Students provided the themes and incidental music for the live awards show last year.

Diploma in Music and Event Management student Nga Remu Tahuparae worked with J&A Productions for several months leading up to the event.

And Kris Ivos, Diploma in Audio Engineering and Music Production, students composed, produced and recorded the theme music for the awards show.

Another former MAINZ graduate, and film sound editor, Polly McKinnon has worked on movies such as Lord of the Rings, Rain of the Children and Australia; attributing her MAINZ qualification as a vital first step to get into the industry.

A large part of her role is in turning the vision that directors, producers and actors bring to the set, into life.  She focuses on dialogue, as well as editing sound effects and post-production sound work.

And it sounds like she's doing pretty well - she has won numerous awards for her work, including Best Sound Design at the 2009 NZ Film Awards for The Strength of Water.


These three graduates are just a few of an enormous cast and crew of talent, literally overbrimming at the seams.

Over the years, as the technology has advanced, so too has the MAINZ capacity to respond.   The school also delivers short courses in Logic, DJ'ing and Pro Tools, the industry standard audio software used in the majority of recording and post-production facilities internationally.  

All of their programmes are supported by Industry and approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority which means students leave MAINZ with not only a full range of professional skills, but also the opportunity to staircase into higher qualifications or university study if they so desire.

Finally I want to just finish with a note about the value our society places on the creative arts industry.

The vision at the heart of the Tertiary Education strategy is a world-leading education system that equips all New Zealanders with the knowledge, skills and values to be successful citizens in the 21st Century.

This country knows full well that the success of creative New Zealanders such as Jane Campion, Peter Jackson, the Finn Brothers, Richard Taylor, the late Phil and Pauly Fuemana of the Otara Millionaires Club fame - and so many more.

I sometimes listen to the derisive way in which people describe courses such as hiphop or funky DJ music, and I wonder how that will impact on our young people setting out in creative careers.

The creative industries have experienced a staggering growth - the sector has grown an average of 8.7% annually since 1997, compared with the national growth of the  less than 4%.

We must be proud of the passion and the talent that is homegrown in Aotearoa and remind ourselves that not only are the creative arts such a positive industry to be immersed in, but actually there is a very strong connection towards success in a meaningful career; a career which may well mark New Zealand on the map, yet again.

I want to really commend MAINZ for the vibrant and stimulating learning environment you have created all around you. 

You clearly have a very successful formula.   Students learn through hands on experience and they benefit from the expertise of staff who are still active in the entertainment industry.

It is obvious to me that this course is about refining raw talent, crafting, honing, channelling and transforming an aptitude for music and performance into a rewarding career and a sustainable lifestyle.

The education you get here at MAINZ nurtures that raw talent into an enduring and meaningful treasure.  It literally adds value to the raw material, including the right mix of business skills so that graduates can be self-employed and manage their own career.

MAINZ is providing fantastic opportunities for those with creative talent to start their journey in the music industry - whether it is as a DJ, a lyricist, an event manager or an audio engineer.  These new facilities will help all who come through your doors along this journey.

I may not have found the whitebait, but I most certainly have enjoyed the feast.

Thank you for the honour of being here to witness the opening of this fantastic facility.   I now declare these facilities open.

Tena tatou katoa.