After completing a Bachelor of Architectural Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, Manaia returned to his home town of Rotorua for a year, working with a local architecture firm on a range of Residential, Interior, Education, Cultural, and Civic/Urban projects.
Manaia came back to Wellington, where he completed a Master of Architecture. His thesis questioned how Mātauranga Māori can enhance iwi place-identity in colonised urban environments. This involved grounding his research in Te Ao Māori and was a result of collaboration with his iwi, Te Arawa, specifically with Ngāti Whakaue, who hold mana whenua status over the Rotorua Township area.
Since joining DGSE as an Architectural Graduate, Manaia has been working on a range of Residential, Interior, Community and Culture, and renovation projects. Manaia has a passion for residential architecture and positive Māori outcomes in the built environment.