When Nga Apai turned up for a recent Tawhero School board of trustees meeting, he got more than he bargained for.

During the meeting Mr Apai, who is the board chairman, was acknowledged for his long service to the board and presented with a certificate. He's been on the board 14 years and has been chairman for nine years.

He put his name forward for election to the board when his eldest child started at the school.

Read more: Whanganui City College to introduce compulsory te reo Māori


"My eldest child had only been at the school for about a month when the principal, Chris Dibben, conned me into standing," Mr Apai joked.

He said he loves the role and plans to stay "until I get my marching orders".

Board members serve three years, and are elected by the school community. The next election will be in November, and Mr Apai said he never takes being re-elected for granted.

He was "humbled" by the recognition.

"I'm more of a behind-the-scenes person - I'm here to help the principal and the school."

Mr Apai said the roles of teacher, principal and trustees had all become more difficult over the past few years.

"It's definitely getting harder and harder. The lack of funding is a real problem for us. It will be interesting to see if anything changes after the election."