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Fellow real estate agents tell Harcourts’ Janet Dickson she might learn something from Te Kākano course

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A real estate agent who is putting her career on the line over a 90-minute course in Māori culture and tikānga is being urged to “get amongst it” by others in the field.

Janet Dickson is facing a five-year ban for refusing to complete the compulsory short course called Te Kākano (The Seed).

She described the mandatory online course as “woke madness” and has launched a legal battle based on concerns that an industry body can force its members to complete training “on a subject that is only peripherally connected to their job under threat of losing their right to work”.

Proud Māori real estate agent Tama Emery empathised with Dickson, saying the course “was different and sometimes change can be challenging.”

But he said Te Kākano was an opportunity for growth and expansion.

“Doing this course doesn’t take away from anybody, nor does it ask anyone to change their beliefs,” he said.

“Just like any opportunity to learn – whether it be for Māori culture, Chinese culture – it’s about adding to your basket of knowledge.”

A Facebook post made by Hobson's Pledge appealing for donations to help fund Janet Dickson's legal fight. Photo / Facebook
A Facebook post made by Hobson’s Pledge appealing for donations to help fund Janet Dickson’s legal fight. Photo / Facebook

Emery said Māori always aimed to be “mana-enhancing” and Te Kākano was a way of doing that – using knowledge to lift up and empower others.

“Enriching your skill set with cultural understanding is mana-enhancing,” Emery said.

On his website Emery, who has had more than $25 million in sales in three years, said he “weaves tikanga and whakapapa into the world of real estate”.

He has also gained knowledge from Indian, Asian, Samoan and American cultures.

“That has only had a positive impact on my work and the way I engage with others. I can relate, I can connect, I understand. Māori culture has the power to do the same thing.”

Tama Emery said Janet Dickson could learn a lot from the new course. Photo / Fiona Goodall
Tama Emery said Janet Dickson could learn a lot from the new course. Photo / Fiona Goodall

The course outline for Te Kākano says it will “provide licensees with an opportunity to develop or deepen their understanding of Māori culture, language and custom, particularly with respect to land, and an understanding of the historical context of Te Tiriti o Waitangi”.

Another Harcourts agent said learning more about Māori culture and connection to the land was important and he saw the relevance.

“Also, the REA [Real Estate Authority] has stipulated that it’s a new part of our learning curriculum, and you have to do it, so instead of making a fuss, get amongst it and see if there is anything positive you can take out of it,” the agent said.

“Pushing back will only end in a disaster for you that’s for sure.”

Another agent, who has been in real estate for more than 30 years, said she initially questioned the relevance of the course but changed her view after completing it.

“I did it because I had to and it was required but I actually enjoyed it. I thought I knew a lot about Māori culture but I feel better educated now,” the woman said.

“It’s an hour and a half out of your life and there’s a huge positive – I spend longer than that scrolling social media some days.”

Te Kākano was one of the two compulsory topics for 2023 but has since moved into the elective category for 2024 – meaning it’s not compulsory for new real estate agents.

However, it’s still compulsory for Dickson.

She is now seeking a judicial review of the REA’s power to enforce cultural training for the country’s realtors.

As well as hiring a lawyer, Dickson is backed by lobby group Hobson’s Pledge, which is led by former National Party leader Don Brash.

According to Hobson Pledge’s website, a judicial review could cost as much as $150,000 and the lobby group is seeking donations of up to $50,000 to contribute to Dickson’s legal fund and to get the process off the ground.

Enlisted real estate agents must complete two hours of compulsory training as well as eight hours of training from a list of elective topics each year to retain their licence.

Compulsory training in the past has covered the code of conduct, the building code and dealing with customers fairly.

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