Brenda Leigh Tahi née Fairlie

Ngāti Porou

1956 -

Brenda Tahi was born in Gisborne and was educated at Gisborne Central Primary School and Gisborne Girls’ High School where she was Head Girl in 1973. She continued her studies at the University of Waikato and graduated with a Bachelor in Social Sciences majoring in Psychology and Māori in 1976. In 1984 she completed a course in Small Business Management. From 1980-87 she was Proprietor for Te Rehuwai Safaris Ltd, a tourism operation in Ruatahuna, and then worked as Community Development Co-ordinator for the Ruatahuna Resource Team from In 1989 she worked as a Project Consultant for the University of Waikato and also as Assistant Acquisition Manager for Cedenco Foods Ltd in Gisborne. From September 1989 to December 1991 she was Senior Policy Analyst for Te Ohu Whakatupu, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and subsequently took up an appointment as Acting Manager of Te Ohu Whakatupu. In 1990 and 1991 she took papers in Public Economics at Victoria University of Wellington, and completed training for management in the public sector with WISER (Women in Senior Executive Roles).

From 1992-1993, Tahi was manager of Te Ohu Whakatupu, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and in December 1993 took up a two-year appointment as sector manager for the central Government Group in the Office of the Controller and Auditor General. In December 1995 she was appointed Manager of Strategic Business Development at the department of Internal Affairs, and in October 1997 she became General Manager, Strategic Management Support.

From 1993-98, Tahi completed a Master of Business Administration through Henley College in London. Her dissertation studied strategic management in New Zealand Government. Whilst maintaining her professional career, Tahi has also pursued other interests: since April 1997 she has worked on and managed her own small beef and sheep farming operation.

Tahi acted as the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs in 2000, and in 2001 she established Brenda Tahi & Associates, a consultancy in strategic management and strategic policy development in the public and private sectors. Tahi has held various directorships including EEO Trust (1994-97), Lotteries Commission (2 moths as ex-officio – 2000), Hutt Valley District Health Board (2000-2004), Ministerial Advisory Committee: Review of the Centre (2001), Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (2001-), Nga Pae o Te Maramatanga (Māori CORE) (2002-), Accident Compensation Commission Deputy Chair (2002-), Huia New Zealand (2003-) and Tuhoe Tuawhenua Trust (2004-). She has had memberships of the Institute of Directors (2001-), NZ Futures Trust (2002), Nga Rauru o Nga Potiki (Tuhoe claims collective), Tuawhenua Treaty Claims Committee (2001-), and Institute of Policy Studies (1995-). She is involved in tribal land administration and management for the Tuhoe Tuawhenua Trust and Ruatahuna interests, and is part of the marae and community committees management. Tahi writes non-fiction work.

Biographical sources

  • Correspondence and curriculum vitae from Brenda Tahi: 11 Dec. 1992, 13 Sept. 2004, 30 Nov. and 1 Dec. 2005.


  • Wahine Kaipakihi - Māori Women in Business. Prod. and dir. Hineani Melbourne. Te Ara Productions; 1991. Wellington, N.Z.: Te Ohu Whakatupu; Ministry of Women’s Affairs, c. 1991.
  • Non-fiction

  • Māori Women In Business: The Issues And Trends They Face When Establishing Their Businesses. Wellington, N.Z.: Ministry of Women’s Affairs, 1991.
  • Statistics For Māori Women In Business. A Comparative Analysis Of The Statistics For Māori Women In Business. Wellington, N.Z.: Te Ohu Whakatupu, Te Minitatanga mo Nga Wahine, 1991.
  • Co-authored with Raina Meha.
  • He Tohutohu Mō Te Tono Herengi: Māori Women As Borrowers: Guidelines For You And Your Business. Wellington, N.Z.: Te Ohu Whakatupu, Te Minitatanga mō nga Wahine, 1991.
  • Co-authored with Kathy Ertel.
  • A Study On Community Services And Development For Ruatahuna. Bryan Poulin and Brenda Tahi for the Ruatahuna Resource Team and the people of Ruatahuna. Hamilton, N.Z.: Management Development Centre, University of Waikato, 1991.
  • Wahine Pakari. Wellington, N.Z.: Te Ohu Whakatupu, 1991.
  • Tahi writes ‘Wahine Pakari is a set of manuals for training trainers for the development of Māori women in business and community enterprise.’
  • The Role of Small Business in the New Zealand Economy: Paper Prepared For The Ministry Of Women’s Affairs, June 1991. Wellington, N.Z.: Te Ohu Whakatupu, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, 1991.
  • He Take Toro Haere: A Directory of Māori Business and Professional Women. Wellington, N.Z.: Te Ohu Whakatupu, Te Minitatanga mo nga Wahine, 1992.
  • Co-authored with Dale Karauria.
  • Te Kura o Huiarau 1917-1992. Ed. Brenda Tahi. Wellington, N.Z.: Huia Publishers, 1992.
  • A history of Ruatahuna School.
  • Māori Women: Steps to Enterprise. Te Whanganui-a-Tara [Wellington], N.Z.: Te Ohu Whakatupu, Te Minitatanga mo nga Wahine, 1989. Rev. ed. 1990. Rev. ed. 1994.
  • Co-authored with Parekawhia McLean.
  • "Biculturalism: The Models of Te Ohu Whakatupu." Justice & Identity: Antipodean Practices. Ed. Margaret Wilson and Anna Yeatman. Wellington, N.Z.: Allen & Unwin, 1995. 61-77.
  • Ruatahuna: Te Manawa o Te Ika.. Pt. 1 – A History of the Mana of Ruatahuna from Origins to Contact and Conflict with the Crown. 2003.
  • Ruatahuna: Te Manawa o Te Ika. Pt. 2. – A History Of The Mana Of Ruatahuna From The Urewera District Native Reserve Act 1896 to the 1980s. 2004.
  • Other

  • "Strategic Management in New Zealand Public Service." MBA Henley College, 1998.
  • Papers/Presentations

  • "Te Kawau Maro – Strategy Policy Development." Strategic Māori Policy, AIC Conf. Apr. 1995.
  • "Public Service in 2010." With Dr Roger Blakely and Ralph Chapman. PSSM Forum. June 1996.
  • "Strategic Thinking in Policy Development." AIC Conf. on Strategic Policy Development. Apr.1996.


  • "Brenda Tahi: Manager, Mother, Student." Te Māori News 2.21 (Dec. 1993): 22.
  • "Headline Headline Headline." Māori (Monthly News Magazine) 6.21 (1997): 13.
  • Profile of Brenda Tahi.
  • Jayne, Vicki. "Doing It Themselves." Listener 23 Mar. 1992: 32-35.
  • Westphal, Laura. "Womanning The Business: An Insight Into Successful Māori Businesswomen In New Zealand." HER Business 60 (Sept. 2005): 22-25.