Hawke's Bay Regional Council has appointed Pieri Munro as Te Pou Whakarae (senior manager, Māori Partnerships). He chats to Mark Story about the newly created role.

Tell us briefly about your background.
I am the eldest of four living siblings - brother Tawehi, sisters Olivia and Marianna in Hastings and Queensland. I was born in the old Wairoa Maternity Hospital. My father (Pieri) was a teacher so we moved from Nuhaka to Waikato and then to Taranaki. They were relevant heritage areas for us as our mother Wikitoria has iwi links to the King Country and Taranaki. I attended Te Aute College, then Stratford High School. I was a labourer for two years before entering Trentham Police College in 1975. I retired from NZ Police Service late 2010 at the rank of superintendent and Wellington District Commander. Since then I have worked at MFish (now Ministry for Primary Industries), MED (now Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment), an Oil & Gas exploration company and then WorkSafe NZ.

The new role suggests there is a gap between council and tangata whenua. How do you plan to bridge this.
Te Pou Whakarae role was signalled in the HBRC LTP earlier this year to provide organisation wide leadership, guidance and support to staff and councillors to engage more effectively with tangata whenua. As a senior executive role reporting directly to the chief executive, James Palmer, it sends a strong signal of commitment and expectation internally and externally. It makes good business sense ratcheting up council resources at a time of significant post-Treaty development regionally and nationally. When you look down the Takitimu corridor from just north of Mahia to Wellington and then inland, you sense a growing air of positivity and expectation - half a billion dollars, predominantly cash, makes iwi individually and collectively a significant economic and environmental partner for council. This role is about lifting internal capability to another level to bridge the right conversations between the right people so our environment is restored for future generations.

Have you identified any early challenges or priorities?
There are some great partner initiatives under way in the region, such as the Kahutia Accord with Ngāti Kahungunu focused on reforestation, HBRC and Wairoa District Council support to Enviroschools along the Wairoa Awa and identification of the region's most treasured and outstanding water-bodies. There's more than that, so my priority is getting up to speed with everything. There are legislative functions to learn, new work colleagues to meet and work alongside, committee meetings to attend, nine councillors to support and a chief executive and council chair with whom I must have a great rapport. Before meeting with iwi as Crown's Treaty partner, I need to first understand council as my employer. I am already iwi, hapū, whānau, marae by virtue of birth and belief. Some might see that as 'conflicted', whereas all I see is a lot of bridges to opportunity for all. In the first few weeks I also need to shift house.

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What do you miss most about your 35 years with police?
Nothing! For me it is a balanced ledger card, you give of your best and you receive as much in return through experience. I was 17 when I joined police, one of the youngest. I am grateful for all that I acquired and the people, kuia and koroua who patiently mentored me. It has helped me to be chosen for this new role. That which I see in common between police and council is the opportunity to serve your community. It's about having a strong 'service ethic'.

What are your top three favourite things about Hawke's Bay?
1) A much warmer climate and definitely less wind in Hawke's Bay.
2) It's much closer to my 'Centre of the Universe', a magnificent place called Whakakī, and 3) It's a great place of heritage and appeal to my wife, adult children and granddaughter (even though they won't be joining me straight away).