As Kaihautū, Dr Hakiwai shares the strategic leadership of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa) with the Chief Executive. He provides cultural leadership to Te Papa and his role focuses, in particular, on strengthening relationships with Māori tribes and organizations. His position and area of responsibility is to affirm and strengthen the bicultural foundation of Te Papa and its significance with Māori communities and the wider museum sector and New Zealand. His leadership encompasses the Iwi Relationship Programme, the Karanga Aotearoa Repatriation Programme, National Services Te Paerangi, iwi in residence, and the Rongomaraeroa Marae.
Arapata brings more than 20 years of museum sector experience to this role. He has worked in a number of roles from curator, exhibitions concept developer, through to being the manager for bicultural operations of National Services (2000-3) and Director Mātauranga Māori in 2003–8 guiding research on the Māori collections, exhibitions and the associated policies and practices pertaining to taonga Māori. Dr Hakiwai was also the acting Kaihautū from 2007–8. Arapata has been a board member for New Zealand Museum’s membership organization Museums Aotearoa on two occasions and remains well connected with his tribal affairs.
Dr Hakiwai has been involved in the repatriation of Māori and Moriori ancestral remains over many years including from the Australian Museum, Sydney; Field Museum, Chicago; Glasgow University; Edinburgh University; The Royal Scottish Museums; American Museum of Natural History, New York and many other museums in the United Kingdom and Europe. This year he led the return of Māori and Moriori ancestors held in the care of the Karolinska Institute, Sweden; Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford University; Ubersee Museum, Bremen, Germany and the Manchester Museum, England.
Dr Hakiwai has led digital repatriation research projects to identify and reconnect Māori treasures back to their source communities and written on Te Papa’s bicultural museum practice and museology. His curatorial expertise, understanding of taonga, and ongoing contribution and commitment to Te Papa bicultural journey will be invaluable in achieving Te Papa’s vision of ‘Changing heats, Changing Minds, Changing lives’. Dr Hakiwai was Acting CEO of Te Papa in 2014 and is currently the Culture Commissioner on the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO where he is deeply involved in the protection, development and revitalization of Māori tangible and intangible heritage.