Bayden Barber, chair, Ngati Kahungunu Iwi

After 26 years, a fresh face has been elected as chairman at Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated (NKII), the region’s most recognised Māori organizational voice.

Outgoing chair Ngahiwi Tomoana, NZ’s longest-serving iwi chair, commented: “I wish Bayden Barber all the best. I will be supporting him, but from the background because he needs sunlight to grow and to thrive, and to prosper with his own mana, his own ambitions, and his own trajectory.”

For many in the region, certainly for most Pākehā policymakers, Ngahiwi Tomoana has been the ‘go to’ voice of Māoridom.

In recent times, however, that has led to some disgruntlement. Ngahiwi himself has been stretched quite thin, perhaps serving in too many roles locally and nationally. At the same time, the region’s nine Treaty Settlement Groups have been increasingly asserting their claims for local leadership, empowered financially and otherwise by their settlement agreements with the Crown. Similarly, other strong Māori voices have arisen at the marae level and from elected Māori councillors.

It’s no longer a one man show. And as NKII’s announcement this week of its flagship Takitimu Seafood woes indicates, some fresh and serious organizational re-thinking needs to occur. 

So that’s the challenging context in which Bayden Barber, an elected Hastings Councillor, takes the reins.

Apart from his councillor position, Barber has served as chair of Health Hawke’s Bay and is presently a director of Beef + Lamb NZ.

As for Ngahiwi, “Mere [his wife] and I are young enough to start again in any adventure we wish to undertake”. A long vacation would probably be in order.

In any 26-year sinecure, there are mistakes and Ngahiwi has had his share over the period I have observed him. That said, what I’ve seen and respected is a tireless worker for his community, a determined advocate, and an insightful visionary.

Photo: Florence Charvin

Join the Conversation


  1. Congratulations Bayden, and Ngahiwi, thank you for being you, for all you have contributed, and for the great songs. Arohanui, Robyn

  2. To have been honoured to walk alongside yourself, and the recognition of both Kahungunu and Rongomaiwahine at the genesis of the Little Elms Charitable Trust I thank you profusely for being there. Now with your blessing of the whenua where Dolly the War Horse will stand and your korero of your whanau connection with the sad story of all of those loyal and brave hoiho that left Aotearoa over one hundred years ago I wish to offer you my best wishes for this next phase in your and Mere’s life. As I am well into the 3rd age I can give you the hint that it can be a challenge and that it isn’t for the fainthearted but enjoy all of the opportunities that a smaller workload allows. Thank you Ngahiwi, Thank you, thank you.


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