He's got the top job and plans to keep it.

Ngahiwi Tomoana has been chairman of Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated for nearly twenty-four years.

It's size and population make it one of the biggest Iwi in the country.

Tomoana is standing for what he says is his final term as chairman of a very diverse Iwi in it's election this month.


"You can't put us in any category or any colour because we have the broad spectrum," he said. "So it is about creating unity within this diverse, positive diversity."

Ngāti Kahungunu has grown its treaty fisheries money, and with the purchase of Hawke's Bay Seafoods is the first Iwi to catch and process its own fish quota.

It is also poised to take a stake in Napier Port, the lifeblood of the local economy.

Despite the financial successes and stability the Iwi has enjoyed under Tomoana's leadership, some say it's time for a change.

Tamoana said to be Kahungunu is to be constantly changing.

"Kahungunu himself was an innovator. He was an entrepreneur. So every day we change, we innovate, we are entrepreneurs. So that is a normal feature - it's business as usual to innovate.

He said the coming three-year term would have a different focus.

"The coming term will be very different because it'll be focused on whānau and families.

"The first 10 years were focused on making Iwi's strong with a good economic base - an autonomous base - where we could develop our culture.

"The second 10 years was developing Hapū strength. All the land settlement claims have gone to Hapū so they have their economic engines.

"The next 10 years will be focused on family, whānau and mokopuna, to make sure that they are the best they can ever be.

Unlike the usual corporate model of a chairman having a solely governance role, Tomoana is a hands-on chairman.

But he has been criticised for not consulting enough, with the most cited example being his single-handed dealing with the Te Mata Peak track on the eastern face, which will now be removed and replaced with a more discreet track on the sacred mountain.

"I did that personally rather than as head of the Iwi," Tomoana said.

"People had been talking about that for months and did nothing. I saw it for five seconds and I acted.

"So sometimes it is good to act rather than having the limbo of indecision. I decided to act and I went straight to the top, straight to the owner - 'Remediate the track or you're on!'

"I took it back to the people in the next week and I got hammered. I was called insane, maniacal, dictatorial.

"But it was a personal decision based on my personal history with that part of the maunga. When my [great] grandmother was taken captive at the time by the musket-bearing Waikato people, she slashed herself with the flint and said 'my blood is going to be in this land for ever but you can take my body'."

He said there would be no leadership void at the end of the coming term.

"We've been running wānanga to drive leaders out of the whānau, out of the hapū and to stand up and take their place in the region.

"Kahungunu needs strong leadership. I've shown it, I'll show it again, but it's time to move on.

"I'll do that in three years time."

The other candidates for chair are Shayne Walker and Johnny Nepe Apatu.

Online and postal voting close 12 noon April 30th.

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