Josh Te Kani has dreadlocks, tattoos - including a traditional tā moko pūhoro - and wears a whale bone necklace that's the size of his fist.

They're features that turn heads, but they're also features that he's thought to hide.

When the Ngāi Te Rangi iwi youth co-ordinator and Moana Radio host stood as a councillor at large candidate for the Tauranga City Council, he wondered if he'd be better received if he covered his skin in a business suit.

"Māori for Māori" is what he feared voters would think, rather than asking: "Who is best for the job?"