Former Assistant Vice-Chancellor Māori and current Adjunct Professor at the University of Canterbury (UC), Tā Tipene is one of the most influential and important tribal members in the modern history of Ngāi Tahu. His significant achievements include being the Chief Negotiator for Te Kerēme – the Ngāi Tahu Claim, which culminated in the Ngāi Tahu Settlement in 1998 – and becoming a key architect of the Treaty of Waitangi Settlements process.
A history lecturer at UC, Tā Tipene became the University’s first Assistant Vice-Chancellor Māori and remains an Adjunct Professor at the University’s Office of Treaty Partnership, Kā Waimaero | the Ngāi Tahu Centre. Throughout his career, he held director roles on numerous state-owned enterprises and was the founding Chairman of the Sealord Group, Ngāi Tahu Holdings, and Te Ohu Kaimoana | the Māori Fisheries Commission.
Tā Tipene was knighted in 1994 for services to the Māori people and the community. In 2009, he was honoured as one of Twelve Local Heroes of Christchurch, with a statue at the University of Canterbury’s old town site, the Arts Centre.
In his 80s, Tā Tipene continues to look to the future for his people. In 2021 he worked alongside the Minister Dr Megan Woods to ensure the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter closure will be managed for the best outcomes for the region, and he has been instrumental in driving hui to explore opportunities for new, green hydrogen industries in the area. Tā Tipene’s work has strengthened Ngāi Tahu’s ownership of its past while helping to build a future-focused, intergenerational iwi.
He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Canterbury’s College of Arts in 1992.
As an academic historian, Tā Tipene is deeply committed to protecting the history and knowledge of the Ngāi Tahu iwi for future generations and has worked tirelessly for many years to ensure there is a Ngāi Tahu Archive.
Pou Whakarae of the Ngāi Tahu Centre Professor Te Maire Tau, who is also Ngāi Tūāhuriri Ūpoko, told Tahu News: “Tipene remembers what happened when we didn’t have archives and we didn’t have manuscripts, and we were subject to the predators from the outside and inside who simply constructed and made up our traditions, which is why the archives were important”.
“I was in my late 20s, early 30s working with Tipene, but the message I got from that is to have a succession line in front and developing,” Professor Tau said.