Elijah Pue is the youngest Ruapehu District councillor by 25 years - the next oldest is his aunt Viv Hoeta, aged 50.

While Pue was at Victoria University he worked for Tariana Turia, Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox as an adviser to the Māori Party. It gave him a taste for politics, and the council role is a step in that direction.

He intends to do more than one term and said his aim was not to be a career politician but to influence positive change in the lives of his people.

"It's hard to make that difference when you are not in those roles of power."

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He's been to four full council meetings so far and several workshops. It takes him about a day before a meeting to read, digest and talk to people about the content of council papers.

He's on Ruapehu's audit and risk committee, youth council and Māori council.

There are a few things about being on council that have surprised him. One was how uninterested people are in council decisions that will affect them.

When the council held a meeting in Ohakune to talk about the town's $4 million wastewater treatment upgrade, which will be partly funded by rates, no one came.

"I was surprised. The other councillors weren't," Pue said.

While on council he'd like to get Ruapehu residents more engaged.

"I want to create a local government where people see themselves in it, the centre of everything we do."

He has three aims for this three years. One is to give Raetihi a hand up (not a hand out) by revitalising the main street and town as a whole.

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"There are opportunities to develop the town so that we can love it again."

Elijah Pue's aim is for revitalisation of Raetihi's main street and town as a whole. Photo / Bevan Conley
Elijah Pue's aim is for revitalisation of Raetihi's main street and town as a whole. Photo / Bevan Conley

He wants to get young people more engaged with council, and he's also keen on economic development, especially tourism.

"We need to engage local talent to bring people here more times of the year, not just winter."

Māori culture could be one of the attractions to the Waimarino.

"Some of our marae are just stunning," he said.

Pue was born in Raetihi and attended Mō Te Whānau Te Kōhanga Reo, then Raetihi and Eketahuna primary schools, followed by five years at Ruapehu College.

He didn't use much te reo Māori during primary and secondary school but then did a BA in Māori Studies at Victoria University and now considers himself a fluent speaker.

While at university in Wellington he worked as an adviser to the Māori Party in Parliament, and he finished five years with the BA and half an accounting degree - which he wants to finish later.

He stayed on in Wellington for two years, working as adviser to the university's Deputy Vice Chancellor (Māori).

Then he returned to Raetihi for a slower pace, to be with whānau and to give back using his skills.

"Home will always be Raetihi. My family go back six or seven generations in Raetihi. I'm a proud Raetihi boy," he said.

He now works full time for Ruapehu iwi Ngāti Rangi as the tribe's development and support lead. In that role he communicates with people outside the iwi, and also with its 3000 registered members, hosting hui and running cultural programmes.

"I deal with all the cultural programmes, giving registered members opportunities to engage with Ngāti Rangitanga - what it means to be a strong Ngāti Rangi uri (descendant)."