New Te Oranganui boss Wheturangi Walsh-Tapiata brings with her a passion for innovation and creativity.

She started the job heading up the organisation's 174 staff on December 4. She's still finding her feet, but said eventually she wants to try new and different ways of working - ways that prevent poor health rather than treating it.

Ms Walsh-Tapiata said she felt humbled to follow the authority's previous leaders - people like Frana Chase, Jenny Tamehana and Nancy Tuaine, her role models.

In her first week in the job, she has the impression her staff love their work. "You need to, to work in this area."


Her own work has always been in health and social services, although she hasn't been "on the front line" for quite a few years. Her last job was teaching and managing hauora (health and wellbeing) courses for Te Wananga o Aotearoa.

For nearly five years she lived in Palmerston North and commuted to Te Awamutu for the working week. At weekends she kept up with her iwi involvements across Manawatu, Whanganui and Taranaki, including representing Wai o Turi Marae in Te Kāhui o Rauru.

Before that she taught in Massey University's social work programme for 20 years, finishing as a senior lecturer. About 10 years ago she got involved with the Tira Hoe Waka.

"Every year since then I have come home to the awa and paddled my awa and reconnected with my awa. Being around our awa is very important to me. The wellbeing of the awa is the wellbeing of the people," she said.

With connections to Wai o Turi Marae in Ngā Rauru, Maungarongo and Tirorangi in Ngāti Rangi and Ranana in Whanganui, she felt called to come home.

Her new job seems like a stroke of luck, as well as a challenge.

She has to implement the strategic plan set by Te Oranganui's eight board members, and be answerable to all the region's tribes. Her next tasks are to talk to people Te Oranganui contracts to - Whanganui District Health Board, and the Health, Social Development and Justice ministries.

Those immediately responsible for the contracts are her nine managers. Their work ranges from disability support to mental and physical health and working with families/ Whanau Ora.