One of Te Tai Tokerau's longest standing leaders, Te Rarawa CEO, Kevin Robinson retired this week after 30 years, including 20 at the helm, saying the Far North iwi is in a sound financial position.

Since seeing the foundation of the rūnanga and steering the organisation through its Treaty of Waitangi settlement, Robinson said he leaves the iwi in a "strong post-settlement position".

He said it is no longer a time to look at grievances, but development for the iwi, wider community and local economy.

"We're looking at things with a different set of eyes. We now have the appropriate structures in place and can set out how that development can create a new future," he said.


Figures released at the Te Rarawa AGM held on Saturday show the iwi has grown its asset base from $39.8 million to $70.3m since settlement in 2015.

Robinson sees future strength in iwi working together to grow their asset base collectively for the benefit of the Māori community and local community alike.

"If Te Rarawa benefits, Tai Tokerau benefits and the whole community benefits," he said.
With 20 years at the helm as CEO, he said he leaves the role extremely proud of the organisation's achievements since first volunteering in 1989, to help then chairman John Campbell, when the rūnanga was known as Te Roopu a iwi o Te Rarawa.

Robinson recalls setting up the first office of the rūnanga at Te Aupouri House, manned by one person, and has worked with every Te Rarawa Chairman since.

"Whina Cooper led out the 1975 land march and Te Rarawa became very active in seeking redress. In the beginning it was all about making things better for our children and our Te Rarawa whanau. We had huge concentration in getting our Treaty settlements dealt with. From then until the time we settled in 2015, was 40 years," he said.

"I've seen a lot of our Te Rarawa whānau pass away in that period and they never got to see the fruits of their work. To have been part of those early discussions, listening to the aspirations of our kuia and kaumātua, then to see it through to final settlement with the Crown, I am very fortunate."

Robinson is excited about the future and potential for Te Rarawa and Maoridom in driving a new Māori economy and how that will flow into the wider community.

"It's all about building relationships, and from those relationships we're creating a better future for our children. If we're going to make a difference economically, we've got to develop our people, and see more of our tamariki come out of school with higher qualifications. We really want to invest in them," he said.


In 2018 Te Rarawa issued $38, 500 in scholarships, with the amount increasing year-on-year. He feels his departure is timely, the role needs refreshing, and with the process, procedures and staff in position, it's time for him to move in a new direction.

"With my retirement comes the opportunity for the Te Rarawa board and staff to formulate a great future and appoint a new CEO to guide the waka through the next part of the journey. With the dedicated staff we have, and new trustees on board I'm handing over the responsibility of this multimillion-dollar organisation into safe hands," he said.

He also resigns this week from his role as chairman of Amokura – Te Tai Tokerau Chief Executives' Consortium.