Visionary Leader: Mark Solomon

Kaiwhakahaere (chairman) of the commercially and socially successful South Island iwi authority Ngai Tahu, Solomon was picked from relative obscurity as trustee of his Kaikoura Runanga in 1995 to become its representative on the South Island’s overarching Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu. 

Just three years later, and just few days after the tribe’s original settlement with the Crown, he was appointed chairman, job he has held for 14, often politically tempestuous, years.

Investment returns from Ngai Tahu’s substantial business activities are outstanding. But while commercial success is critical, from Solomon’s and the iwi authority’s perspective that success is simply the means to secure financial, cultural, physical and spiritual wellbeing for future generations.

Under Solomon’s guidance Ngai Tahu has successfully merged complex traditional Maori governance with contemporary commercial governance structures. “There is much that business organisations generally can learn from this,” the judges note.

They describe him as “humble, compassionate but simultaneously astute leader”. 

“His articulation of cooperative, sustainable and culturally attuned vision of the future, and not just for Ngai Tahu, has helped shape and advance the renaissance of Maori enterprise and society,” they say.

His success comes by dint of dedication and self learning. He was tapped for his job because individuals recognised his potential but he had to live up to his promise and deliver. “He has done that in spades,” say this year’s judges.

“My dream for our people is simple: to be culturally strong, healthy and happy,” Solomon said recently.

He believes Ngai Tahu must act as guardian of “set of values handed down by our ancestors. For us and our children after us we invest our time and collective resources in initiatives that will create opportunities to enhance intergenerational wellbeing of Ngai Tahu whanau and grow our communities into the future.”

The judges describe Solomon as highly principled and committed to protecting the longer term interests of all New Zealanders. 

“He never loses sight of the need for sustainability of the profitable parts of Ngai Tahu’s business activities. 

“He articulates vision that New Zealand is potentially strong because it has all the positive features of diversity, cultural understanding and the environmental attributes needed to survive in the future.”

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