As I write this story, I sit in that somewhat uncomfortable space of owning and understanding my place of privilege, the unconscious biases that live within us all, and the constant power dynamics that present themselves to us as a society, every day.

It can be a heavy mindset some days. But these reflections likewise bring opportunities for incredible growth, transformation, and help create a sense of belonging for all.

I am the co-founder of Leith Consulting, a land surveying and environmental planning consultancy that Josh—my husband—and I envisioned and developed in the summer of 2018-19. Alongside our incredible team, we exist to help build thriving communities, propped up by deeply trusted, long-lasting relationships and contributing wherever possible to a better future for our tamariki (children) and the generations to come.

I was born here in Kāpiti at the (then) Paraparaumu Maternity Hospital. I grew up in Waikanae and now live in Paraparaumu. Our Leith Consulting team typically work from our studio in Ōtaki amongst the sounds and energy of the whenua (land).

My days are full of conversation and connection, which I navigate as a proud member of Aotearoa’s deaf community. My other senses do a lot of the interpreting and listening for me. I have always had a deep connection to the environments surrounding me, the warmth and expression of culture, embracing tikanga, and engaging with the stories of those who have walked before me. Because of my heightened sense of awareness of both people and the places around me, I rely a lot on my ability to read, watch with intent, and research, while I embrace my pākehā identity.

Through years of deep engagement in the resource management and town planning realm, I’ve come to watch, interrupt and work to understand the behaviours of others, and the imbalance of power as it plays out in our daily engagements across our communities. The need for systemic change is more pressing than ever!

Having a hunger for change is about a readiness to address past injustices and work towards a more equitable future. Under the leadership and direction of my husband and I, Leith Consulting is a firm that is committed to uplifting the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Treaty of Waitangi.

Being a good treaty partner is not just a concept and cannot be; it’s embedded in our thought processes which transpire in our everyday work. We prioritise respectful engagement, seek guidance from mana whenua, align our projects with indigenous advice, connect our clients with community or iwi-led kaupapa (causes), and measure our success not on regulatory approval but in authentic engagement and collaboration with tangata whenua.

Our approach isn’t always the easy road. It requires confronting biases, dismantling privilege, and having to withstand a system designed to uphold colonial structures. But the more we travel these roads, the more we realise they are abundant with lessons, strengths, and growth. We are richer as people for not taking the easy option. It moves our business away from simply being transactional and into relational, putting environmental and social outcomes into the heart of what we do.

While some days might feel a bit top-heavy in our purpose to support more equitable outcomes, our contribution to uplifting the awareness of indigenous rights and environmental stewardship continues to grow. We see our younger generations leading the way with their understanding of te reo Māori, Te Tiriti, and the principles of collaboration. It’s a progression we are proud to play our part in, guided by our values of collaboration, transparency, commitment, and empowerment.

It is a journey. One full of humility, respect and continuous learning. And as I come full circle, it is a journey full of opportunity, incredible growth and true transformation – as we play our part in creating thriving communities where there is a strong sense of belonging for all.

Monique Leith
[email protected]
027 208 0140