"Know who you are, but remain humble". It's a lesson Deliah Balle's nana instilled in her growing up, and a message that still resonates with her to this day.

Growing up in Bulls and living in Auckland most of her life, Balle spent eight years working as a business analyst, before she realised she could transfer her skills and knowledge into the iwi sector to benefit "our people".

While she didn't live in Rotorua, Balle said she always had strong links to the city through her whakapapa.

She refers to her Rotorua-based nana as her "mentor" and credits her influence for inspiring her to bring her skills back and put them to use for the benefit of her people, something she's now doing through her role at the Te Arawa Lakes Trust.


Responsible for the trust's statutory role in lake structures and consents, Balle's mahi involves her engaging with the various hapu around the Te Arawa lakes.

Hearing their stories, particularly the kuia and kaumatua speak of their connection to the lakes, is something Balle considers a highlight of her job.

She loves involving hapu in projects, getting them enthused with the work going on around the lakes and sharing ideas on how things can be improved.

Prior to working for the trust, Balle spent four years with Te Runanga o Ngati Awa's environmental arm on environmental projects, including the environmental court proceedings of the MV Rena wreckage on Astrolabe reef.

"The other reason I decided to come home was to learn more about and spend lost time with my people. Because my work is so hapu focused, it has really accelerated that."

Balle said she loved the variety of work, which could see her day start in meetings and end in gumboots on the lake edge inspecting structures.

Because the trust is the landowner of the lake beds, Balle is often the first point of contact for those planning structures.

She also works with the various regulatory authorities such as regional and district councils, and planners.

"Our role is to ensure our people's voices are heard and not lost in translation through process."

She said another was ensuring the Te Arawa values, set out in Te Tuapapa o Nga Wai o Te Arawa - Te Arawa Cultural Values Framework, were translated across all her work, and understood by other organisations involved with the lakes.