Lex Dillon

“My wife, Robyn and I have always felt it was up to us to take care of ourselves in retirement and when Whai Rawa started we were very keen to participate and to encourage our children to save for their futures."

Lex Dillon (Ngāti Irakehu)

When Lex Dillon was in his first year of tertiary education, a Ngāi Tahu education grant paid for his commercial law text book. That may have been decades ago but Lex, 57, remembers it well.

“That book was worth a week and a half’s wages back then and the Ngāi Tahu grant made a huge difference to me. That’s one of the reasons I signed up to Whai Rawa as soon as possible. I know the value and power that good financial schemes like this have to change lives,” he says.

Lex, director of NZ Hothouse Ltd in Auckland, signed up to Whai Rawa when it began in 2006, along with his three children, Luke, Sean and Hannah, now 30, 28 and 25 respectively. Luke’s one-year-old daughter, Indi has also been signed up to the savings scheme.

“My wife, Robyn and I have always felt it was up to us to take care of ourselves in retirement and when Whai Rawa started we were very keen to participate and to encourage our children to save for their futures. I commend the people at Ngāi Tahu who had the vision and foresight to put this scheme together. It’s about the iwi helping people who choose to help themselves. That’s a great thing,” says Lex.

He saw Whai Rawa as a low risk, conservative fund that, in tough financial times, provided an important level of security. Lex acknowledges that he’s fortunate to have other retirement schemes in addition to Whai Rawa, which enable him to invest in higher-earning, riskier schemes if he chooses. That aside, he still sees Whai Rawa as one of the best savings schemes available.

“Even if you only put aside a few dollars a week it soon mounts up when you include the matched savings and the iwi distributions.”

From the outset, Lex has paid into Whai Rawa by automatic payment – “that way it’s completely painless” – and he and Robyn have gifted their children money for their Whai Rawa accounts for Christmas and birthdays.

“It’s the gift you know will mature. We’re doing the same thing for our granddaughter, Indi. I started my account much later in life – too late to make a huge difference; but for someone starting young, Whai Rawa definitely has the power to change lives. Our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to build up substantial amounts of money that will give them much more choice in how they live their lives.”

Lex and Robyn have no plans for withdrawing from their Whai Rawa account before their retirement but son, Sean has already cashed-in to buy his first home and Hannah is looking to do the same sometime in the future. Luke is saving for retirement, as he already owns a home.

For Lex, Whai Rawa has also provided a valuable link back to his iwi. “I was brought up in South Auckland but I’ve always had an interest in my Ngāi Tahu heritage. One of the challenges for Ngāi Tahu in contemporary society is maintaining the integrity of the iwi in face of social change.Whai Rawa is a valuable way of addressing that, of keeping iwi members in touch and I’d encourage all Ngāi Tahu to join, no matter how small the contribution, even if it’s only a small regular contribution.”