Whaimutu Dewes, Ngāti Porou and Ngāti Rangitihi—BA 1975, LLB 1977, MPA 1988

Whaimutu Dewes is a prominent business leader, particularly in the seafood industry, and a strong advocate for Māori economic development.

After graduating from Victoria University of Wellington with Bachelor’s degrees in Arts and Law, Mr Dewes joined the public service, rising to become the chief legal adviser in what was then the Department of Māori Affairs. In 1988, he was a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., looking at Māori economic development, and in the same year he graduated with a Master of Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

Subsequently, Mr Dewes worked in senior roles for Fletcher Challenge and held directorships at organisations including Housing New Zealand, Television New Zealand, Māori Television, and Ngāti Porou Holding Company. He currently serves on the board of Contact Energy and chairs Ngati Porou Seafoods and Ngati Porou Forestry.

He has established himself as a leader in Māori business organisations, with particular expertise in fisheries, and is the current chairman of Sealord Group and Moana New Zealand. He also served as a member of the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission in its first 10 years.

Mr Dewes is also a prominent advocate for the revitalisation of te reo Māori. His involvement in this movement dates from membership of Victoria University of Wellington’s Te Reo Māori Society and his part in the campaign that resulted in the te reo Māori 1972 petition to Parliament. Those efforts led to the establishment in 1975 of Māori Language Week and the Māori Language Act 1987. Mr Dewes regards the fact that he and his wife, Judy, have raised their children to be fluently bilingual as their most rewarding achievement.

In 2018, he was awarded the Māori Governance Leader Award as part of the Māori Business Leader Awards.