Tania Te Rangingangana Simpson has spent her career focusing on projects and roles that will improve outcomes for Māori.
Ms Simpson (Tainui, Ngāi Tahu, Ngā Puhi) has been recognised by the University of Waikato with a Distinguished Alumni Award. The award is given to a small number of alumni who have achieved significant success in their career and made outstanding contributions to their communities.
Ms Simpson arrived at the University of Waikato with the intention of studying languages, however realised early on that Māori language and culture was the right pathway for her. She graduated in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
“The Māori department fed my interests. Māori knowledge, Māori language, the Māori nature and values was my food for that time. From those three short years my outlook on the world pivoted to connect with the knowledge handed down from my own ancestors,” she says.
After graduating she became an iwi liaison officer for the New Zealand Housing Corporation, before moving into policy advisory for the newly established Te Puni Kōkiri. She founded her own Māori policy advisory firm, Kowhai Consulting in 1995.
In 2001, Ms Simpson became a director of Mighty River Power, a role she held for 13 years. She currently holds directorships at Tainui Group Holdings, Reserve Bank of New Zealand and Auckland International Airport. She is the Chair of the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge Governance Group and a member of the Deep South National Science Challenge Governance Group. She is a member of the Waitangi Tribunal and Deputy Chair of the Waitangi National Trust.
While serving in a governance capacity on a range of iwi, commercial and public entities, she has always had a strong vision for iwi development and recognising Māori values within business.
Ms Simpson says she emerged from the University of Waikato with a desire to pursue work that supported the place of Māori separate identity and autonomy in Aotearoa/New Zealand. “Up to the present day I am still pursuing my goal of seeing Māori prosper and that the intention of the Treaty of Waitangi is upheld.”
She has paved the way for many young Māori leaders and was appointed the first Māori director on the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. She credits her success to having great mentors throughout her education and career and takes pride in supporting the next generation of young Māori leaders through a mentorship programme she created.
She was made a Commander of the Order of the Taniwha in 2014 and a Dame of the Order of St Lazarus in 2019 for her services to Māori business, charity and community.
Ms Simpson is one of four University of Waikato Distinguished Alumni for 2020, along with My Food Bag CEO Kevin Bowler, professional director Liz Coutts ONZM and Māori Land Court Judge and Chief Justice of Niue, Judge Craig Coxhead.