Plans to pursue business opportunity with Whānau

After five years as Manahautū (Chief Executive) at Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa, Leonie Simpson has decided to step down from her role. Leonie is leaving to pursue a business opportunity in partnership with her husband Arekatera Maihi, at their company Toitu Design.

Toitu fuses Māori art with contemporary design including graphic art, whakairo and tā moko. The business has experienced a period of unprecedented growth in 2020 and 2021 and requires a leader with managerial experience.

During her time with Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa Leonie has helped Ngāti Awa to respond to a number of life changing events including the Edgecumbe floods of 2017, the Covid-19 pandemic and tragic eruption of Whakaari/White Island on 9 December 2019, with the loss of 22 lives.

“The last five years have been the most defining of my career and life. I have experienced no greater honour than to have been chosen to lead my Iwi and it has been a very humbling and fulfilling experience,” said Leonie.

Speaking about the eruption Leonie said:
“None of us that were present in Whakatāne when Whakaari erupted will ever forget that day. It is part of our personal and Iwi history now. Ngāti Awa responded immediately opening our Marae and comforting the whānau of the victims, and the Whakatāne community. We will never forget the people who lost their lives, their loved ones and those that were hurt. They remain in our thoughts.”

Leonie will leave Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa at the end of this month but will be on hand to provide a thorough handover to her successor. The Board has commenced the search to find a candidate of Leonie’s calibre and will make an announcement about this in due course.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with and been supported by past, present and future leaders of Ngāti Awa, including uncle Joe (Dr Joseph Mason) who passed away last week.”

“His absolute dedication to protecting and enhancing our Iwi rights, his humble leadership, and his unwavering commitment to Ngāti Awa are an inspiration to me. The legacy of uncle Joe and our many leaders means Ngāti Awa are well placed to shape our future, continue to protect the taiao (environment), and develop a workforce centred on our values and identity as Ngāti Awa. I am very grateful for the support I have received from the Iwi, hapū and whānau of Ngāti Awa. Ēhara taku toa i te toa takatahi ēngari he toa takatini e.”

Reflecting on her decision to step down, Leonie said:
“The time is right for me to hand over the reins and for a new leader to emerge. I am confident that my replacement will continue to build on our progress and will be supported by the dedicated team at the Rūnanga that I am very proud to have worked alongside.”
Leonie is looking forward to spending more time with her whānau, husband and daughter and the team at Toitu, “It is an exciting new chapter in our lives and I’m looking forward to getting started.”

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa Tumuaki (Chairman) Joe Harawira said:
“The leadership shown by Leonie over the past five years has been exemplary. She has led the Iwi through a number of extremely challenging and sometimes contentious issues affecting Ngāti Awa during her tenure as Manahautu.

“I have appreciated her patience with me, whilst settling into the role of Tumuaki and I applaud and support Leonie’s decision to pursue further career options and to spend more time with her whānau.

“The challenge has been laid. Who will pick up the manuka, to continue the legacy that has been created through her wonderful leadership and guidance?

“Ma te atua koutou ko to whanau e manaaki e tiaki a nga tau kei te haere ake.”