Helping and supporting mana whenua is a high priority for Susan O'Regan, who is hoping to become Waipā district's next mayor.
Originally from Rukuhia, O'Regan will challenge Mayor Jim Mylchreest, promising to bring a "strong, energetic, [and] fresh" sense of leadership.
Susan won the Kakepuku ward unopposed in the 2019 local government election, and is running for the top job with ambitious intentions, including addressing iwi aspirations at a local level.
"We have a great district, but council needs to change," she said.
"We need to make it easier to deal with us, we need to listen and take care of our diverse population.
"We need to work more effectively together to make Waipā's communities more resilient and vibrant so there is a better future for us all."
Susan says she understands the importance for the district's "often uncomfortable local histories to be told".
"As a current councillor I have had the privilege of working alongside mana whenua in various environments and have grown what I believe are strong respectful relationships.
"[I've] been very active in this space including organising Waipā's inaugural Ra Maumahara Day in 2017.
"I have always been an advocate for increased Māori participation in our decision-making by voting for the creation of Māori wards in 2017 and again in 2022.
"We need to address hapū and iwi aspirations at a local level carefully and on a broad range of issues. These include the implementation of Te Ture Whaimana and discussions around the development of papakāinga."
She also said council has to proceed with work to acknowledge and protect sites of cultural significance and look at the meaningful and effective incorporation of te ao Māori into the organisation.
Although Waikato Tainui avoids responding to candidates involved in political campaigns, it did acknowledge the importance of ensuring mana whenua's engagement.
"Our position is that we expect local and regional bodies to engage with iwi and mana whenua on all sites of cultural significance in their respective areas - irrespective of their political makeup," Waikato Tainui deputy chief executive Jason Ake said.
Born and bred in the Waipā district, Susan is proud of the direction of her community.
"We've made a good start. But there is so much more to do ... Let's make sure Waipā builds on its strengths, and has a strong future. We should all be able to thrive here – at every stage of our lives."
• Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air