Real partnership with Māori is the true way forward, says new Western Bay of Plenty council's chief executive John Holyoake.
Holyoake officially started the new position on Monday and was formally welcomed with a pōwhiri attended by elected members, council staff and representatives of iwi and hapū in the council chambers.
After korero (conversation) and waiata (song), Holyoake said he truly believed in a real partnership with Māori.
"I truly believe that working in the community, place-making, [and] working with community, mana whenua [and] iwi is the most important thing that we can do in New Zealand.
"Those are the things I've learnt and I look forward to bringing what I've learnt in that space to my new whanau and more importantly learning from you as well."
Originally from Rotorua, Holyoake was chief executive of the Tamaki Regeneration Company - the largest urban regeneration project in New Zealand, and a role he has held since 2015.
"My time at [Tamaki Regeneration Company] was incredibly special to me – I don't think I've ever learnt so much in any six-year period in my life."
Western Bay mayor Garry Webber said pōwhiri in the wider sense meant "to welcome", but for Aotearoa New Zealanders it meant much more than that.
"It means the weaving together of people," he said.
"Today is the beginning of your process to weave your skills into the rich fabric of our council and hopefully take it to the next stage."
Webber told Holyoake the speed of implementation could at times be a "snail's race" in local government "which you may not be used to".
Holyoake responded: "I think we can speed it up a little bit."
After the pōwhiri, Western Bay councillor Don Thwaites told the Bay of Plenty Times Holyoake would address population growth well.
"He's been in charge of that for the last six years in Auckland… [I'm] really looking forward to those skills coming around," Thwaites said.
"One of his strengths is he doesn't come from just a long history of local government because of that varied pathway he's had with other parts of his career."
Fellow Western Bay councillor Grant Dally told the Bay of Plenty Times Holyoake's background in the Tamaki regeneration project was going to be "quite beneficial for Western Bay".
"It's something we're struggling with - urban growth and trying to build more houses."
Dally said Holyoake was "very outgoing, enthusiastic, positive, [and has a] can-do attitude".
"I think it's quite exciting for Western Bay."
Ngāi Tamarāwaho representative Buddy Mikaere said he had been "quite impressed" with Western Bay.
"The return of the Panepane reserve - to my real surprise, the vote was unanimous - kind of shows a real commitment by that council to move things along with iwi," he said.
"Across the board, there's a whole heap of things going on with that council which are good, so I'm pleased they've got a CEO who is kind of of the same mind."
Ngai Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley said his iwi would approach working with the council with "an open heart and an open mind".
"We can do it as long as we're open about it. Until somebody gives you the reason not to feel open and not to feel as if things are going so great, you've got to work on the basis that it's going to work.
"You won't get a more loyal friend than us...and you won't find a more fearsome fighter."
Chair of the council's Tauranga Moana partnership forum, Reon Tuanau, said he was encouraged by the statements made by the new chief executive.
Tuanau, also representing Ngai Te Rangi, said: "There is much work to be done in achieving true partnership but we must strive towards this together.
"Mā te hoe ngātahi o te waka, ā, ka tutuki pai te kaupapa" (By way of paddling the waka in unison is how we will best achieve the outcomes).
Holyoake takes the role from former chief executive Miriam Taris, who began with the council in 2014 and spent her last days with it last week.