League legend wants seat on iwi executive

By Yvonne Tahana

Clean-out needed in governance structure held back by hidden agendas, Tawera Nikau says.

Tawera Nikau.
Tawera Nikau.

League great Tawera Nikau is after a vacant spot on Waikato-Tainui's tribal governance board.

The 46-year-old is already a member of Te Kauhanganui, the iwi's parliament. He is gearing up for an election this month for Te Arataura, the executive that draws 10 of its members from the parliament.

The vote has been put off twice before as a result of ongoing instability and it's an example of what years of political intransigence looks like, Mr Nikau said.

"I've been home for six or seven years now. The internal rumblings, what's been going on with the tribe, I've sort of sat on the sidelines and gone, 'Can't we get this right?"'

He refused to say who had been the worst political performers for the tribe, saying the future needed to be the focus.

Still, whatever tribal governance looked like, a new broom was needed.

"It probably does need to be cleaned out. I honestly think that.

"There are a lot of young, smart Tainui people coming through the grades. Educated, experienced, entrepreneurs. Those are the ones we need to be asking to step up.

"Maybe there's a time for people to move on because ... there are hidden agendas and, at the end of the day, we're here for the tens of thousands of shareholders. At the moment our people at the lower end aren't reaping the benefits. I'm pretty passionate about making a difference."

Mr Nikau had his right leg amputated after a motorcycle accident, has dealt with suicide in his family, is an NRL championship winner with the Melbourne Storm, an ex-Kiwi international and now owns and runs construction and corporate consultancy businesses.

Team One specialises in "change management". A recent contract with a forestry company was centred on cultural change around health and safety issues.

Cultural change is what's needed now for Waikato-Tainui, Mr Nikau says. He's backing a current governance review and is hoping for proposals which outline a more streamlined structure.

He is just coming to grips with news that for health reasons, King Tuheitia is passing more of his duties to his son, Whatumoana.

Home for Mr Nikau is Matahuru Marae, in the north Waikato. It is a place known for growing food for Kingitanga annual celebrations such as the coronation commemorations and regattas.

His commitment to the movement will remain, regardless of how he fares in the election. "It's our underpinning belief; we're here to support the Kingitanga."

- NZ Herald

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