Parekawhia McLean is one of 100 finalists in the fourth annual Westpac Women of Influence Awards. The former CEO of Waikato-Tainui is being recognised for managing the tribe's affairs, whose asset value is more than $1bil.
For more than five years, Ms McLean was at the helm taking care of Waikato-Tainui affairs on behalf of their 68,000 plus tribal members.
“It's always an honour to be recognised and acknowledged by those people that you work alongside, but secondly, more importantly for me the awards themselves about celebrating leadership for women across many sectors across the motu.”
Waikato-Tainui made a $78.6mil profit this financial year. Despite those earnings, it did not stop Parekawhia from moving to a new job.
“I've always had this plan in any role that I've been that come five years, I'd reflect, I'd take stock, I'd look back at what I'd achieved, and I'd probably got to that place last Christmas, New Years, I sat down with the whānau and thought that 2016 was going to be a year of change for me, and that's exactly what has happened.”
21 years ago, Waikato-Tainui signed their Raupatu Claims Settlement. It was witnessed by Parekawhia's parents while she was studying at Wisconsin University.
“My mother wrote a beautiful letter to me while I was living in the States and she described the day, and also was very clear as to why she and dad supported the settlement. It was all about a better future for myself, my brothers and sisters and their mokopuna.”
The return of the Rangiriri Land titles to the tribe at King Tuheitia's 10th anniversary this year was one of her many personal highlights.
“I was really moved by that because I think of our 'I riro whenua atu, me hoki whenua mai.' The first time that had ever happened across the motu. The implementation of our river settlement. Again the settlement happened in 2010 and over the last five and a half years under I guess my stewardship, management we've had to execute that. I'd like to see Māori women occupy leadership roles, across sectors. I'd like to see the first Māori woman Prime Minister.”
The awards take place tonight at Auckland's Skycity.