Ngāti Kahungunu's new leader gears up to 'look under the hood'

By Stefan Dimitrof

After more than two and a half decades, Ngāti Kahungunu has a new leader.

Last night, Bayden Barber replaced the long-time chair, Ngāhiwi Tomoana, as the chairman of Ngāti Kahungunu incorporated.

Tomoana held the chair's job for 27 years and lost the position to Barber who is also a Hastings district councillor by 486 votes, Barber securing 2,273 votes to 1,787 for Tomoana. Barber is only the second chair of the fourth-largest iwi in the country.

Barber spoke with to discuss the future of Ngāti Kahungunu and talk about what the future holds for the iwi.

Barber said that even after the election result and the support of the team and whanau, he still wasn’t relaxed. “No, I wasn’t very relaxed until the final announcement.”.

Tomoana contacted Barder after the result of the election to congratulate him on the victory. “All of his family and supporters and my family all ended up at the same restaurant just by chance, so we’re able to do the tikanga thing and the mihi thing with karakia and waiata.”

Some major failings

Barder said that there are some major issues that need to be addressed and major reforms happening at the same time such as three waters, housing, RMA and future local government. “I think that we need to organise ourselves and unite. Collective strength is where the future lies for Ngāti Kahungunu”.

Barber will be in negotiations for Ngāti Kahungunu in a Treaty settlement worth nearly half a billion dollars and he hinted toward the future inclusion of iwi on that journey.

“When you sit down with government in terms of working together in partnership you can do some great things. It’s about organising ourselves and utilising our collectiveness to support our iwi to achieve our aspirations.”

Last year there was a report that the iwi lost ten million dollars and Barder said that they will be “looking under the hood” of their iwi commercial entities to find out what is going on with the financial situation.

“The problems will be glaringly obvious. You cant lose $10 million in one year and not have some major failings going on in the business.”

Barder has a final word of reassurance for his iwi.

“The results will flow back through our marae, our hapu, our whanau and that’s where I’ll be judged, and it's amazing to have an iwi conversation about our aspirations about our vision for the next 10, 20 and 30years to come”