Tina Porou always knew she wanted to work for her people.
The 40-year-old Turangi woman has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours for her services to Maori and the environment.
Ms Porou, who affiliates with Ngati Tuwharetoa and Ngati Kahungunu on her mother's side and Ngati Porou and Ngai Tamanuhiri on her father's, came from a family which has always been involved in tribal affairs and connected to its whakapapa and the land.
"I was highly politicised early," Ms Porou says. "There was never any question in my own mind that [working for Maori] was what I would do.
"That was always very important," she said.
Ms Porou completed a social studies degree, followed by a post-graduate diploma and a master's degree in geography. In her final year she began working for the Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board on the re-consenting of the Tongariro Power Development. At 120 hui she has witnessed the pain of people who had land confiscated through the Public Works Act; hearing those stories set in place the foundation of her career in resource management.
Since then she has held a range of roles managing and protecting important national taonga like the Tongariro River, Lake Taupo and the Waikato River. She was integral in creating the only two joint management agreements that currently exist between local councils and iwi in both Ngati Porou and Ngati Tuwharetoa, and also has extensively worked in forestry.
There is a shortage of Maori planners who understand the Maori world and can work in the resource management arena, so her skills are much in demand.
As well as her current job as Contact Energy's head of sustainability and environment, Ms Porou is an iwi adviser for two groups which are advancing freshwater and climate change issues directly with the Crown.