National | Ngāti Kahungunu

Fourth largest iwi gets reformer in shock election result

The country’s fourth-largest iwi, Ngāti Kahungunu, has a new leader after results from its triennial elections were revealed at a special general meeting this evening.

Bayden Barber has won the leadership of the Hawke's Bay tribe by a 486 vote margin, unseating long-time chair Ngahiwi Tomoana.

Barber received 2,273 votes, while Tomoana received 1,787 votes. Of the 19,695 eligible iwi voters, just 4,113 took part in the election.

Tomoana has led the iwi authority for the last 27 years, having been instrumental in securing Crown settlements and several high-profile commercial assets during his tenure.

Barber, a Hastings District Councillor and chair of Waimarama Marae campaigned as a reformer, arguing iwi assets were not reaching their potential in its current constitutional structure where post-settlement governance entities managed treaty assets, independent of Ngāti Kahungunu Inc.

Barber, also a director of Beef & Lamb and a member of the 3 Waters steering committee suggested the many bodies might perform better with more control by Ngāti Kahungunu Inc as a parent organization.

"Our combined treaty settlements are worth nearly half a billion dollars across an area spanning from Paritū, north of Te Māhia to Tūrakirae on the South Wairarapa coast," Barber wrote in an opinion editorial in Hawke's Bay Today last month.

“This should give us the financial and social strength to match other successful iwi like Ngāi Tahu and Tainui. However, we are not reaching these heights and our whānau are not getting the benefits that they deserve,” he said.

Barber credited Tomoana for his leadership over the past three decades, particularly as it related to securing several high-profile assets for the 82,239 strong iwi.

But, he argued, the $10m loss posted in 2021 meant reform to the organisational structure was needed to turn things around more quickly.

“We must do better to improve our financial performance so that we are making money, not losing it," he said.

The election results will be confirmed by independent observers on May 3.