From the CEO

Dec 12, 2012

Chief Executive Officer,arihia2
Te Rūnanga O Ngāi Tahu,
Arihia Bennet

I am at the start of a new chapter in my career and, although I like Madonna, I am not about to reinvent myself as I know I will need to draw on my past experiences to provide a baseline when making courageous leadership decisions.

The only trick here will be to make sure all pathways lead to sensible outcomes. To do this effectively is not the role of one person only. It requires weaving in the social context that exists around me and drawing on wise advice that is truly for the greater good of all.

When you “climb a mountain in a department”, it is sometimes easy to forget your journey and where you came from. I have always prided myself on carrying the banner of social justice in just about anything I come across, because I have a strong belief in fairness.

Recently a couple of experiences reminded me that life is not fair. I spent some time with a whānau member who has dementia, and during this visit I recalled this kaumātua’s earlier life and how his calm, wise presence was such a drawcard to all around him. I also gave thanks to those who are ever-present in his daily life, caring for him and protecting him. I came away with a heavy heart and again realised the importance of whānau and social connections. I called my son and told him how proud I am to be his mother, so I hope he reminds himself of his duties as I get older.

On a different occasion I was at a hui and could not help but notice the number of women who were smokers. I gently made my way around and asked what makes them smoke. Most said it was anxiety, worry, an entrenched habit and a sense of social connection. Initially I thought this was no place for me to judge their context, but then the courageous side of me felt I should say something, as I thought about the pressures that will be placed on tamariki. The thought of mokopuna having to care for their kuia, not if but when health problems arise, again did not seem a fair exchange. Being a passive bystander is not good enough and we should think carefully on how we support and resource our whānau into change.

Investing in our most important asset, our tamariki, should be our bottom line. Becoming tribal world leaders in the commercial sphere is only the half of it, albeit an important half. The other half is in our whare and hapū and we must all take responsibility if we are to enable the creation and regeneration of a healthy, dynamic and vibrant Ngāi Tahu that imbues the essence of mana ora, mana whānau and mana motuhake.

In the months ahead I am looking forward to teasing out in this column, the many issues that affect us. In doing so I am reminded of the advice that I received when I attended the First Nations Future Programme at Stanford University last year, as I listened to Srinija Srinivasan (formerly number five at Yahoo). Leadership requires humility and kindness, she said. At all times speak the truth, and you may be surprised how many will share your views.