Rangitīkei District Council's first Māori woman councillor Soraya Peke-Mason is not standing again this year - her interests have moved away to Māori land development and tourism.
Peke-Mason was voted on to the council in 2007, representing the Turakina Ward. She was only the second Māori person to get a seat, after her uncle, Mark Grey. It was a difficult place at first, with fellow councillors mostly male farmers, a laidback mayor and a controlling chief executive.
As the lone councillor for Turakina, Peke-Mason had to fight hard to make her points.
But two terms on the Ratana Community Board had prepared her to be in for the long haul.
Brought up in Whanganui and returning after 20 years and a first experience with private enterprise in Australia, she met Andre Meihana, went to live at Ratana Pā and didn't like the look of the water the council supplied there.
"It was a disgusting brown colour and we were expected to bathe, drink and wash in it. Our youngest child, Arama, was born and his nappies were coming out brown instead of white," she said.
She had no interest in politics, but the Meihana/Mason family was active in the Labour Party and unions and they encouraged her to stand for the community board. On it in 2001 she discovered a central government scheme to subsidise drinking water improvements for small communities.
The board applied, eventually got support and partial subsidy from the council and it took 10 years to get a new and deeper bore sunk and the Ratana Water Treatment Plant up and running. She knew the council was where the real decisions got made, stood for it, lost to Steve Fouhy the first time round and got on at her second attempt.
Local government does teach you patience and the value of relationships and advocacy, she says.
"If you are in a hurry, don't bother, because all good things take time."
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The improved water supply is her greatest achievement on council.
"It took over 10 years to get this plant built, far too long, but we got there in the end."
The make-up of the council has changed over the last 12 years. By 2013 half the councillors were women and there's now a mix of urban and rural people.
"It's more diverse, more inclusive and more collaborative."
Peke-Mason's advice to new councillors is to be considerate, do your homework, understand the Resource Management Act and the Treaty of Waitangi and find out about the 1800s land wars.
"Relationships are key to future development of our communities. Your Treaty partner sits on millions of dollars of assets."
In 2011 Peke-Mason also stood for Parliament for the Labour Party. Her brother-in-law, Errol Meihana, had lost out twice, many Labour supporters had deserted for the Māori Party and she was the only person willing.
"I had the job to do, and I did it."
She's a third generation Ratana follower, and in January that year the tumuaki (head) of the church authorised her to speak on the paepae during the annual welcome of politicians. Women are not usually allowed to speak there, and when she stood others on the paepae prevented her.
It was a fraught moment that was "very unsafe" for the tumuaki, she said. Tribal politics won out over her church approval and she sat down.
She lost that election, but reduced her aunt Tariana Turia's majority from 8000 to 3000. When the next election rolled around in 2014 she could have stood again, but support for the Labour Party had revived and her husband's cousin, Adrian Rurawhe, was another potential candidate. She gave ground to him, and supported his campaign.
"It was a decision that I didn't make on my own. I made it consciously and collectively with my family and in the best interests of further strengthening family ties. Politics can divide you," she said.
She was never keen to be in national politics and is now leaving local politics because her heart's no longer in it. She took on another major role last year, when she was voted the chairwoman of Te Tōtarahoe o Paerangi, the transitional post-settlement governance body for one of her iwi, Ngāti Rangi.
It will receive $17 million, plus interest and influence in land and waters.
"There's a massive amount of work that needs to be done in establishing our infrastructure group that's going to manage the assets," she said.
The Ngāti Rangi settlement has its third reading in Parliament on July 25 and there is a lot of policy and process to work through. Her time on that body could end in 2020, after formal elections to it have been held. She's not sure whether she will stand.
In the meantime she's been up in Ōhakune a lot, which is handy because her daughter, Tara, is a sergeant in the New Zealand Army at Waiouru.
She also wants to carry on her work in Māori land development and tourism, and has been studying for an executive masters of business administration degree at Massey University.
Her first experience in private enterprise was in Australia, when she and her then-husband had a successful construction business in Townsville. Arriving back in New Zealand in early 2000 she was first a manager of the Manaakitia Trust private training establishment in Whanganui, then started her own business, Land Trust Management Services.
It supports Māori land-owning bodies and is busy.
"There is so much work out there, I don't advertise."
Raised in Castlecliff in a meatworks family, Peke-Mason went to Castlecliff School, Rutherford Intermediate and Whanganui High School. She has links with several Whanganui iwi, including Uenuku, Ngāti Haua and Ngāti Rangi. Her mother was a Taiaroa-Waretini, a first cousin of Sir Archie Taiaroa.
Peke-Mason knew School Certificate would be enough to get her a good job in the 1970s, and she left school at 15 to work for New Zealand Post in Wellington. She worked, saved and had fun there until age 19, when she went to Australia for a holiday and stayed for 20 years.
She worked for Mobil Oil in Melbourne, married in Newcastle, gave birth to Tara in Alice Springs and spent four years working in tourism at Yulara, the village servicing Uluru/Ayers Rock and the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
She never thought she would return to Whanganui or New Zealand, but she started coming back for the tangihanga of relatives in 1997, and a longing grew.
"You pine for something, but you don't know even what it is."
When the time came, it was Whanganui she returned to.
"There was no other place that I wanted to live in then - just come home to the place where I grew up, my tūrangawaewae."