After 26 years working for her people in Wanganui, Nancy Tuaine is heading for Wellington and a senior role in central government.

She hopes she can help them just as much in her new job as a chief adviser with Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry of Maori Development. "I think I can serve us just as well at a different level in another place," she told the Chronicle.

She finishes as chief executive of Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority on Friday, and starts in Wellington on Monday.

If she can't influence policy at the highest level there, she hasn't ruled out turning to politics. She stood for the Maori Party in the 2014 General Election, finishing fourth with 546 votes.


Deciding she needed fresh horizons, she first applied for the job of Children's Commissioner to replace the departing Russell Wills. She was shortlisted and interviewed, but didn't get it.

"Losing out to Judge Andrew Becroft - you can't bum out about that," she said.

Ms Tuaine has been at Te Oranganui for four years, starting when there were 150 staff sited in three different places. Now there are 170, all together at the Tupoho Community Complex.

Her main focus has been to get Whanau Ora practice adopted in all the services so that lives are transformed. She's also wanted a measurable increase in service quality.

"Government requires you to count what you do, not measure it. Measuring outcomes requires you to tell a story.

"It's a bit of a longer game than just saying how many people you visit each week." Moving from managing five people at the Whanganui River Maori Trust Board to managing 150 was a big jump, but she said the principles were the same.

"You need a good vision and you need to be able to articulate that to your team."

She's had no trouble delegating.

"I've got a really good set of managers here.

"I like to operate quite an empowered management style. I let them get on with doing what they need to do, and I focus on our relationships."

The main relationships have been with Whanganui District Health Board and the Whanganui Regional Health Network.

Ms Tuaine has had other roles too, often to do with finance and policy.

She has been a member of the iwi leaders' group that governs Whanau Ora nationally. Te Oranganui's next chief executive, Frana Chase, is to take over that role.

Ms Tuaine has chaired the group that manages the Whanganui tribes' cash fisheries asset, growing it from $300,000 to nearly $2 million. She plans to carry on with that.

"We have to make sure we use it wisely, invest for the future."

She's also one of the people entrusted with managing the tribes' Whanganui River Settlement money. She's planning to carry on with that while working in Wellington, returning at weekends to contribute and "stay real".

Also during her time at Te Oranganui she finished a Masters degree in business administration at Massey University.

She expects to feel sad on her last day on the job, but knows change will be refreshing. Some of her people, especially the old ladies, have given her "a few smacks" for leaving.

"People spend about 10 seconds congratulating me and 10 minutes on 'What are we going to do?' No one's indispensable," she said.

While at Te Puni Kokiri she wants to embed Whanau Ora into New Zealand social policy, and take a hand in shaping the social service changes Government has begun.