Mon 8 Jul 2019

BJ - a hard act to follow

Five months after his sudden death, the loss of BJ Hetet continues to be felt.  WITT’s cherished tutor died after collapsing during a game of rugby league in February.  And replacing him has proved a formidable task.

WITT Kaiārahi Ken Taiapa expected two people would eventually be needed to take on the range of roles BJ held and applications are open for the Kaiako Pakihi role

Aside from being an indication of his value and strengths, it also underlined the fact that there is a shortage of Māori with the skills, qualifications and experience that BJ bought with him.  This was reflected by the fact that he was a highly respected tutor who played a lead role in ensuring WITT’s ongoing recognition of tikanga and mātauranga Māori in a range of its courses and programmes. His reach in the community was as deep as it was broad – fellow tutors and their whānau would go to him to seek advice, share a laugh or to be tattooed. Alongside this he was also a leading light in Māori rugby league circles.

Following his death, WITT council chair Robin Brockie said BJ was a rangatira, a person passionate about education, a superb teacher, an artist and carver who had a huge interest in music and was passionate about sport.  These passions were further enhanced by his love of te reo and mātauranga Māori.  It’s of no surprise that he was instrumental in the development of the Level 4 New Zealand Certificate in Māori Governance at WITT in 2018.  He said at the time: “Iwi have highlighted concerns over a lack of capacity at governance levels – most board and trust members are also active in other forums and involved in other kaupapa.”  His words rang true.  He was in his element as the programme coordinator and enjoyed working with WITT’s iwi partners Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa and Te Kahui o Taranaki to support the programme delivery.  With his passing, WITT has faced a challenge to find someone to succeed him as its coordinator.  WITT Kaitakawaenga, said BJ’s passion was being in class.

He was steeped in knowledge, and having moved from Te Wānanga o Raukawa in Otaki to Taranaki, he was part of the renaissance of te reo in the province.  His enthusiasm for cultural competency and mātauranga Māori at WITT was infectious and had a profound effect on all staff.  “When we look at the broad range of things he covered, it highlights the many talents of the man and the big gap he leaves behind” said Ken Taiapa.  It is clear that BJ left a legacy at WITT that the institute is committed to honouring and upholding. 


To find out more about the Kaiako Pakihi - Business Academic Staff Member role, please visit Work at WITT.  Applications close 9am Wednesday 17th July 2019.