Oh look.. I’m famous

2 07 2012

Ok, maybe not.. maybe this was just posted on my companies internal newsletter…

But still. I will take my 5 minutes (more like 30 seconds) of fame thank you very much!


When Maria Vandenburg, MSA Landonline & Geospatial Services and Hydrography, left Seattle on her big OE, she never imagined that less than two years later she’d be standing up in front of a room full of people and performing as part of a kapa haka group.

Maria left the United States in 2010 after four years working as a project co-ordinator in the advertising department at the Seattle Times, a major daily paper. “I was frustrated with the job and in the economy at that time there wasn’t a lot of room for career growth in the States,” says Maria. ”So I grabbed the opportunity to go abroad!”

She spent her first year in Australia, with six months each in Sydney and Melbourne, but she still wasn’t ready to go home. So Maria applied for a working holiday visa for New Zealand, arrived in October 2011 and travelled for a few months before looking for work. It was then that Maria began work at LINZ.

“I was initially hired as a temp, but ended up staying on. I’m now the MSA (Management Support Administrator) for two teams – Hydrography and Landonline & Geospatial Services.”

Maria first heard about the Whānau group and the work that they did when the Welllington Office moved from Lambton Quay to the Terrace.

“The tuwheratanga (opening) for the new building was my first exposure to Maori culture, and I found it really intriguing.”

While it was the ever-persuasive Paula Dixon who gave Maria the final push to become involved when she asked her to help out with some of the administrative tasks, Maria is now fully immersed in the group and she’s stoked that she stepped outside her comfort zone.

“At first I was totally intimidated; an Arab-American with no idea how to pronounce any of the words let alone knowing anything about Maori culture. But the group has been so welcoming. That’s been the best part, you really feel included and the group does come to feel like a family.”

Maria’s biggest achievement with the Whānau group so far has been performing at the Matariki event in June. “It was a great feeling standing up and performing the waiata and actions as part of the group – I can add kapa haka to my bucket list! If you’d told me when I came to New Zealand that I’d be performing in front of an organisation in Maori I would have laughed.”

She recommends getting in there and becoming involved with the Whānau group to everyone at LINZ.

“Being part of the Whānau group has been one of my best experiences so far at LINZ – the people are fantastic. You really don’t need a background in Maori culture to be involved, all you need is the desire to learn more.”



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