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Meet The Business Development Team

Our Business Development team is passionate about helping businesses, organisations and individuals to upskill and thrive. They bring a wealth of experience to the task and are always ready to assist.

Business Development Team

Sefa Faletanoai 1582101448497.jpg
Business Development Manager

Sefa’s role is to ensure Ara’s Business Development Team continuously builds meaningful and beneficial relationships with local businesses and organisations by sharing the many opportunities Ara offers. Business became his passion following two significant realisations. First, it dawned on him that he wasn’t disciplined enough to stick to a diet for his rugby ambition.

Secondly, he realised that his degree in theatre and film might have been a mistake when he was passed up for roles on Shortland Street. Sefa says the best part of his role is that the team can offer professional development, apprenticeships, student projects, networking and other opportunities to businesses at below market prices or sometimes even for free. He’s most passionate about innovative projects and accessibility to services at Ara, such as the Professional Growth Suite which provides high-quality, timely industry-level training at affordable prices.

NB: Sefa’s claim that he once auditioned for Shorty is not backed up by hard evidence.


Tia Hunt 1582101448497.jpg
Poutoko (Team Leader, Kaiwhakauru team)

Tia’s role involves engaging with rangatahi Māori interested in vocational pathways and tertiary studies. He supports them on their learner journey and promotes cultural responsiveness to the wider community. He also engages with businesses and organisations to assess their cultural training and education needs and whether Ara can help provide that professional development.

Tia (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Porou, Te Ati Awa) has been well embedded in his culture since he was a young boy, and he has a passion for unlocking capability among others interested in Te Ao Māori. He’s spent most of his professional career in employment and recruitment with a focus on Māori.

Fun fact: in 2013 when Tia was 14, he was a contestant on X-Factor and got through to the second round of Boot Camp until he forgot the words to Beyonce’s ‘Halo’ on national television. Safe to say if Tia wasn’t a fan of Beyonce then, he definitely isn’t now. Feel free to get in touch with Tia regarding Ara’s course offerings, PD options or to ask him what his X-Factor audition song was.


Simo Faitaua
Business Development Pacific Representative

Simo’s role involves working with local businesses and organisations to find out what their professional development needs are. He has a specific focus on making connections with the Pacific community and loves working in this space as it allows him to give Pacific groups and individuals a better understanding of what tertiary education has to offer them and the many ways Ara supports Pacific students.

Prior to joining Ara, Simo worked in the construction sector for 16 years as a plasterer. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of 80s music and movies, to the extent that he can tell you the year a particular song or movie came out!


Charlie Auty 1582101448497.jpg
Business Development Representative (Southern)

Charlie has a passion for listening to clients’ needs, sharing his excellent product knowledge and creating mutually beneficial opportunities for businesses and organisations throughout South Canterbury. With a Diploma in Applied Business specialising in HR management, he’s a strong voice for the importance of ongoing education.

Charlie’s had a varied career and is also a part-time infantry medic with the New Zealand Army. His skills mean he can jump into action quickly in times of civil emergencies – attributes which have seen him help with peacekeeping in the Solomon Islands and in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes. Outside of work, family — wife Sharon, three stepdaughters and six grandchildren — is everything for Charlie whose mantra is ‘help where you can’.


Mel Odlum 1582101448497.jpg
Business Development Team Administrator

Mel hails from Ireland and has worked at Ara since 2008, starting off in Registry then moving to Skills for Canterbury, a precursor to the Business Development Team. Her role involves providing support and solutions to the team, and co-ordinating its newsletters, promotional emails, webinars and workshop registrations, among many other things.

Mel is proud to work in a firmly established team that provides a premium service to its industry stakeholders. She gets a lot of satisfaction working with others to achieve goals and is always excited to learn new and more efficient ways of working to the benefit of Ara’s stakeholders. A keen bike commuter, Mel loves taking in beautiful Ōtautahi on two wheels.