Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu’s first female and longest-serving chief executive, Arihia Bennett, will bow out from her role this year according to an announcement made to staff today by the newly appointed chair Justin Tipa.
Bennett (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāi Tūāhuriri, Ngāti Waewae, Ngāti Porou) became chief executive at the rūnanga in 2012 and held advisory positions and government, governance roles. She was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori and the community in 2008.
“Arihia has been instrumental in the continued growth and development of our organisation, not only in an economic sense but most importantly in our cultural and social outcomes,” Tipa said.
Te Ao News contacted the rūnanga for comment but neither Bennett nor Tipa could be reached
Under Bennett‘s leadership, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu worked with the government and Christchurch City Council to assist with the 2011 Canterbury earthquake recovery, the terrorist attacks on two mosques in 2019 and Covid-19.
The announcement of her stepping down comes as the rūnanga celebrates a milestone investment of $1 billion into tribal development since settlement of its Treaty claim.
“The impact of this funding and programmes will stretch intergenerationally, and I acknowledge the role Arihia has played in ensuring this funding is well-directed,” Tipa said.
Two new leaders in two months
Tipa was elected chairman only two months ago after Lisa Tumahai stepped down after seven years, leaving the organisation after more than 20 years of service. The recently elected kaiwhakahaere came from Te Rūnanga o Moeraki where he was the chair from 2019.
Over the next two months, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu will work with Bennett in the handover to a yet-to-be-appointed interim CEO before recruitment for the permanent position later this year.