From the CEO

tk67-arihia-bennettChief Executive Officer,
Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu,
Arihia Bennett

This month Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu celebrates 17 years since settlement with the Crown. The governance approach over those years was to go hard on asset wealth creation, and today the tribe is financially anchored. The set-up of a new 18-member tribal council came with its teething problems, and like any new group there would be colourful moments along the way.

Today we see a tribal leadership embedded that is supported with all the bells and whistles. Although we are established, I’d like to think that we are in our teenage years and at this age, we would be naturally curious about the future.

My view of modern-day leadership is that we have to open our minds to future possibilities. Global connectivity is the new drug, and like the meerkat we need to be on our toes, scanning with our 360° vision to keep up with trends, technology, and markets; otherwise we will get left behind. It doesn’t mean letting go of our identity, wisdom, and experience – it means moving with change so that the pathway ahead actually reflects the true needs of the Ngāi Tahu population, now and in the future.

For instance, we know that half of our tribal make-up is less than 30 years old, and my guess is that the average age of our tribal authority is actually about 55 years of age. As a middle-aged CEO this poses a question: Do we really know what young people want? If I don’t know, then I need to make it my business to find out, and the best way to do that is to engage young people in as many ways as possible. This includes leadership roles.

Imagine a governance of older experienced leaders with a mixture of younger, ground-breaking talent, together shaping a future pathway of Ngāi Tahu aspirations, that’s actually intergenerational in itself. Heaven forbid, we may learn something from one another!

This process can be a natural and enriching one, bringing together a diversity of age, experience, and curiosity. At the same time, I am clear that tribal governance isn’t a doddle. It’s a role where we have to be prepared to make “grown up” decisions, and it’s not for the faint-hearted.

To grow the leadership of tomorrow, the learning opportunities must be in place today. Starting this at the papatipu rūnaka is a great stepping stone, and if we want to foster the involvement of young people, we have to be prepared to enable them to step forward without stomping on them.

I like this approach to leadership development. The courage will be to actually do it!