Te Maire Tau

Dr Te Maire Tau is one of New Zealand’s great tribal historians, a leader of his hapu, and a strong voice in the rebuild of Christchurch. He helps to build relationships between indigenous people around the world, and inspires the next generation of Maori leaders.

As a historian, a leader in governance and the head of his hapu, Dr Te Maire Tau embraces his duty to “care for the people”.

Te Maire holds the highly-respected position of Upoko (head) of the Ngai Tuahuriri hapu in Canterbury, and is regarded as one of New Zealand’s great tribal historians and an empathetic, innovative and ethical leader.

Not only is he a leader, Te Maire is also a team builder - across the diverse worlds of academia, governance and at the “flax roots” of his Tuahiwi village community. His strength lies in collaborating and building relationships across generations and cultures. He takes it upon himself to ensure the people in those communities are cared for and have opportunities to grow. In his many roles, Te Maire has created and led teams encouraging Maori youth into tertiary education, contributed to the rebuild of quake-torn Christchurch, and set a new agenda for indigenous discussion.

Te Maire comes from a long line of leaders and was educated by kaumatua (Maori elders) in Tuahiwi, the largest village of the Ngai Tahu iwi. As Upoko, he oversees the development of his marae and hapu, and ensures people of the marae remain faithful to their traditional responsibilities. He has hosted royal visitors to the marae, provided the welcome and eulogy at two earthquake memorial services, and welcomed over 10,000 Maori to Christchurch for the opening of the 2014 Matatini kapa haka festival.

Having always harboured a passion for history, Te Maire was a student at Canterbury University when he uncovered manuscripts in the Alexandra Turnbull Library that helped him to piece together the story of Ngai Tahu’s migration from the North Island’s East Coast to the South Island in the 18th century. He later wrote a book on the historic journey; one of six books he has now written on Ngai Tahu. With his growing knowledge of the tribe’s history, oral traditions and genealogies, Te Maire helped iwi leaders with their land claim to the Waitangi Tribunal. He was then used as an expert witness and historian for the settlement of the Ngai Tahu claim - the largest settlement in its day between Maori and the Crown. Previously a senior lecturer in history, Te Maire became the first director of the Ngāi Tahu Research Centre at the University of Canterbury in 2011. The centre was founded to create intellectual capital, leadership and development of Ngai Tahu, the principal iwi of southern New Zealand.

He has developed relationships with indigenous centres around the world, and is the New Zealand representative for the First Nations Future Programme at Stanford University in the United States. The programme is an international alliance between Ngai Tahu, the Kamehameha Schools in Hawaii and Stanford, focused on developing First Nations leaders who serve their communities.

Each year Te Maire helps select six aspiring Maori leaders and takes them to Stanford for two weeks, before mentoring them through the development of special projects.

For four years, Te Maire served on tribal council Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, pursuing his idea of a tribal savings ethic. The Whai Rawa savings scheme now has 22,000 iwi members and over $50m in savings.

Te Maire became the founding CEO for Te Tapuae o Rehua, a partnership between tertiary education providers in the South Island. He also co-chairs Te Hononga – the Treaty of Waitangi committee within the Christchurch City Council - with the city’s mayor Lianne Dalziel.

In a philanthropic capacity, Te Maire became chair of the Mana Waitaha Charitable Trust in 2010, which succeeded in rezoning Maori reserve land in North Canterbury in 2015, so whanau could build and live on previously unusable land.

Te Maire has also helped in the rebuilding of his city, Otautahi (Christchurch). After the 2011 earthquake, Te Maire led the formation of the Matapopore Charitable Trust, providing cultural advice on local iwi values and aspirations for the regeneration projects. He has drawn on ancestral stories and ideas to help artists and planners acknowledge the cultural role of Ngai Tahu and Ngai Tuahuriri in the future of the city.

He is a mentor to young Maori, creating opportunities to build their confidence and grow their potential. He has also written and performed haka and waiata for Ngai Tahu.