Pania Newton: Reluctant leader joins Auckland University’s top 40 Under 40 list

November 9, 2019 in DunedIn


They represent the influence of youth in business, technology, and especially in social change.

The University of Auckland’s 40 Under 40 list – class of 2019 – celebrates exceptional alumni who are making a significant contribution to their field or community while aged in their 20s and 30s.

The list has been compiled since 2017 to recognise alumni who are mid-career and have already made significant achievements in their profession.

Auckland University Alumni Relations Manager Joel Terwilliger says that while it is a priority to acknowledge the high achievers of their global population of 200,000 alumni – 50 per cent of which are under 40 – the list also aims to inspire current university students.

READ MORE:
Who is Pania Newton? SOUL protest leader explains why she opposes Fletcher Building housing project at Ihumātao in Māngere
‘PM deeply involved’: Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta to meet SOUL leader Pania Newton over Ihumātao dispute
Premium – Teuila Fuatai: Nasty criticism surfaces at Ihumātao
Ihumātao standoff: Police reject claims protester pushed over

“We see the 40 Under 40 programme as proof of the impact and efforts to push the envelope in a variety of fields, which our alumni are achieving as global citizens.

“We definitely look for graduates who though applying themselves make significant contributions to their profession, but we’re also looking at community involvement and social impact.”

Nomination forms are sent out to University of Auckland staff from all faculties, and also the alumni population.

Alumni who reach the 40 Under 40 list will have made significant contributions in two of the following categories: professional success, community involvement and engagement within the university community.

The list of 40 is broken down into six categories: disruptors and innovators, performers, humanitarians, influencers, business leaders and entrepreneurs.

Here are some of their stories.

Pania Newton – influencer

It was never Pania Newton’s ambition to be thrust before the eyes of the nation as the leader of a Māori land rights protest that erupted at Ihumātao this year.

Four months on, she still describes it as an “awkward” necessity.

This week, Newton stands out on a list that recognises professional success for her rejection of a conventional career.

The 28-year-old founder of the protest group SOUL had dutifully occupied a 32ha plot of South Auckland land slated for a Fletcher’s housing development since 2017.

Yet it wasn’t until mid-2019 that Newton fully emerged as the spokeswoman for a social media-fueled protest that, at its height, saw 11,000 people descend on the wind-carved shores of Manukau Harbour.

The stakes were familiar: the Māngere land spanning a volcanic plain that contained historic stonefields and the Ōtuataua Coastal Walkway was sacred to local mana whenua.

But the public embrace and media focus of the cause had a youthful vivacity and rebellion that it is hard not, in some part, to attribute to Newton, who was front and centre, rebuking Jacinda Ardern for describing her as rangatahi (implying young and naive).

Yet for Newton, it started humbly.

The 2015 graduate of a Bachelor of Laws and Health Science abandoned her plan to move to Rotorua to work in her boyfriend’s father’s law firm to form Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) protest group with six cousins in 2015.

The SOUL hikoi from Ihumātao in Māngere to Jacinda Ardern's electorate office in Mt Albert - Pania Newton addresses the walkers. Photo Khalia Strong
The SOUL hikoi from Ihumātao in Māngere to Jacinda Ardern’s electorate office in Mt Albert – Pania Newton addresses the walkers. Photo Khalia Strong

Pania Newton on the large screen at the U2 concert at Mt Smart Stadium November 8, 2019, during an encore tribute to influential women through history.
Pania Newton on the large screen at the U2 concert at Mt Smart Stadium November 8, 2019, during an encore tribute to influential women through history.

“When my cousins started a campaign to protect this rare cultural heritage landscape we never thought it would get to this point. People mention us internationally. You have indigenous communities reaching out to us in solidarity,” Newton says.

“At the time we just thinking about being the best guardians that we can be for the environment, and to uphold human rights. I thought we would be just your usual protectors, protesting outside council and making submissions to Parliament and so on. I never knew I would end up leading such a historical movement – as it’s been described.”

A Fletcher’s eviction notice sent to the SOUL Ihumātao protesters in July ignited thousands of allies on Ihumātao.

“At the time when everything escalated and was at its highest point it was surreal for me,” Newton says.

“I didn’t expect so many people to come to Ihumātao to stand to protect this land. I was very overwhelmed, very nervous, but overall I was just proud of Aotearoa.”

“It was interesting how I became the focal point or the spokesperson of the campaign. It wasn’t something that was intended and it was definitely not something I was interested in when it was bestowed on me.

“It’s been awkward most times but I just see it as something that has to be done in order to preserve this land. Many people see it as just one person leading this campaign.

“But I represent thousands of people’s blood, sweat and tears.”

That genuine devotion to the cause is still on show this week as she sits at a far calmer encampment of about 50 protesters still maintaining the Ihumātao occupation after the Government temporarily postponed Fletcher’s construction.

Pania Newton before the Tino Rangatiratanga sign at Ihumātao - translated
Pania Newton before the Tino Rangatiratanga sign at Ihumātao – translated “solidarity”. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Newton says the latest help for their cause is Heritage New Zealand considering classifying the land as category one heritage listing – but that still won’t override existing resource consents for construction.

“The way that I see us resolving this issue is that government intervenes and purchases this land back, or makes a law change, or perhaps Fletcher will show some good public will in giving this public land back.”

And while she waits, with her legal career indefinitely on hold, she has been celebrated by the institution that trained her.

Kristina Cavit – founder of The Kindness Institute

Kristina Cavit is the founder and director of The Kindness Institute, which helps young Kiwis with mental health though mindfulness.
Kristina Cavit is the founder and director of The Kindness Institute, which helps young Kiwis with mental health though mindfulness.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 2008, Cavit spent time volunteering in Bolivian orphanages, and assisting Haiti 2010 earthquake victims.

But it was during a visit to Baltimore, one of the 10 most dangerous cities in the US, that she encountered the positive impact meditation can have on disaffected youth.

This inspired her to establish The Kindness Institute in 2016 to help Kiwi youth develop better tools for dealing with stress and emotion via mindfulness.

The institute has already reached more than 800 young people, and mindfulness is being taught in schools around Auckland. In 2018 she was named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to youth and nominated for Young New Zealander of the Year.

William Trubridge – freediver

William Trubridge is the world record holder in the constant weight without fins disciplines, along with multiple other titles.
William Trubridge is the world record holder in the constant weight without fins disciplines, along with multiple other titles.

The world record holder in freediving without fins has reached a depth of 102m below sea level unassisted.

Trubridge graduated with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Biology in 2000 and says his studies proved to be beneficial for his career as a professional freediver.

“Freediving is so physically demanding we need to be scientists of our own bodies underwater in order to learn how best to reach our aquatic potential.”

In 2019 he became the first person to complete an underwater crossing of the Cook Strait in a series of 934 breath-hold dives to raise awareness of the critically endangered Hector’s and Māui dolphins.

Sachie Nomura – chef

Sachie Nomura founded and runs Australasia's largest Asian cooking school Sachie's Kitchen based in Parnell.
Sachie Nomura founded and runs Australasia’s largest Asian cooking school Sachie’s Kitchen based in Parnell.

Nomura arrived in New Zealand from Japan at 18 not speaking any English.

She initially enrolled in a computer science degree but quickly found it wasn’t for her, switching instead to a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Chinese and linguistics.

After graduating and working in travel, things took an expected and dramatic turn one day.

“Two of my colleagues lost their life partners to heart attacks on the same day. All I could hear was my mum’s voice when I was a child telling me that if there is something that you really want to do in life you should do it.”

Having spent time learning from some of Auckland’s top Japanese chefs, a business opportunity was staring her right in the face and Sachie’s Kitchen was born.

Starting the business from home using her own kitchen, it didn’t take long for Sachie’s Kitchen to become Australasia’s largest Asian cooking school with its own custom-designed premises in Parnell.

Alex Magaraggia – director of Ecoware

Ecoware co-founder Alex Magaraggia.
Ecoware co-founder Alex Magaraggia.

Attending Milford Primary School, Magaraggia would soon meet James Calver, who, unbeknownst to him at the time, would go on to become his business partner.

The two friends quickly became inseparable. Enrolling in a Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Laws after high school, the experience provided ideal preparation for a foray into entrepreneurship.

While at university, the Magaraggia/Calver business pair saw an opportunity for environmentally friendly packaging in the event management industry, and their business Ecoware was born.

The eco-friendly food packaging business manufactures single-use food packaging made from plants. It supplies businesses across New Zealand and now in more than 10 countries.

Full 40 Under 40 list

Disruptors and Innovators

Emmet Cox – Pilot

Graeme Fielder – Corporate Development, Audentes Therapeutics

Mark Finch – CTO, Vicon Motion Systems

Craig Piggott – Founder & CEO, Halter

Anna Robinson – Researcher and Coordinator, All-Party Parliamentary Group on LGBT+ Rights, UK Parliament

Jaime Short – Director, Infrastructure Cook Islands

Sjoerd van Ballegooy – Technical Director, Tonkin + Taylor Limited

Performers
Vivian Aue – Artistic Director of AUĒ Dance Company NZ and Manukau Institute of Technology Lecturer in Performing Arts
Gavin Correia – Recording Artist, Jupiter Project
Mel Parsons – Musician
Ruby Porter – Author
Jeet Raval – Professional Cricketer
William Trubridge – Freediver

Humanitarians
Judith Barback – Chief Editor, Ministry of Education
Kristina Cavit – Founder and Director, The Kindness Institute
Richard Misilei – Manager Community Library, Auckland Council/Auckland Libraries
Red Nicholson – Project Lead, Curative
Avinash Sharma – Oncology Surgeon and Global Health Researcher
Lupe Taumoepeau – Vascular Surgeon, Capital and Coast District Health Board
Reina Vaai – Lawyer, Journalist, Author

Influencers
Nicholas Dalton – Founding Director, TOA Architects
Imogen Kerr – Director, Specialist at Christie’s
Karena Lyons – Vice-President and Director of Research, Director (Designate) of the Pacific Islands Development Programme, East-West Centre
Pania Newton – Influencer
Thomas Sainsbury – Freelance Artist
Elinor Swery – Product Manager, Nexar
Hayley Yu – Agency Account Strategist, Google

Business Leaders
James Bergin – Executive General Manager – Engineering & Architecture, Xero
Tessa Gould – Head of Revenue & Growth, SoulCycle
Jessica Miao – Founder & CEO, United Media Solution
Sachie Nomura – Chef
Manoj Patel – Director of Clinical Innovation and Medical Services, MercyAscot Hospitals, Healthcare Holdings
Caroline Rainsford – Country Director, Google NZ
Dan Walker – Māori Business Leader

Entrepreneurs
Kunal Bhargava – Engineering Manager, Apple
Jericho Clearfield – Founder, Bountie
Jennifer Ma – Founder / CEO, little oasis group
Alex Magaraggia – Co-Founder/Director, Ecoware
Priya Singh – Founder & CEO of Karma Collective, Mentor me Fiji Foundation and Pop the Question
Sam Yin – Founder & Managing Director, Hougarden



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