Sir Tipene is a Kāi Tahu leader with life-long experience in various aspects of maritime endeavour and Indigenous leadership. He has a strong academic background in New Zealand and Pacific economic history. He is also the recipient of several honorary degrees and fellowships in New Zealand, Canada, Australia and the USA. His last academic appointment was as assistant vice-chancellor Māori at the University of Canterbury. He has, as well, a deep interest in the history of hydrographic exploration and has lectured widely on that subject both in New Zealand and internationally.
Sir Tipene is best known in New Zealand as the primary architect of the Treaty of Waitangi fisheries settlements of 1989 and 1992. He is also well known as the lead negotiator of the Kāi Tahu Treaty settlements of 1996 and 1998. He has had an extensive career as a company director of both private and state sector companies. He was the founding chairman of the global seafood company, Sealord Group (1993–2002). From 1995 to 2001 Sir Tipene was a member of the executive board of the Law of The Sea Institute (USA). In 2000–1 he advised the Government of the Republic of South Africa on the successful allocation of fishing rights to coastal Indigenous communities, at a time of sweeping changes to that country’s fisheries regime. From 2000 to 2005 he was a board trustee of the Marine Stewardship Council (UK). From 2005 to 2011 he was involved in the development of deep-water aquaculture in South Australia. He was made a Knight Bachelor in 1994. He was appointed Distinguished Fellow of the NZ Institute of Directors in 2001 and received the Supreme Award of the NZ Seafood Industry Council in 2002.
A well-educated mind fuelled by an aspiration bigger than your personal position and personal advantage is the first prerequisite of leadership.