In a crowd of thousands Daisy Noble is in a world of her own. With papers strewn across her picnic blanket, she barely notices the dozens of racehorses thundering by.
Like her lippy and handbag, Taranaki iwi Ngaruahine's chief Waitangi Treaty settlement negotiator wouldn't be caught dead without her tomes of legal, political and cultural documents.
Even if that means standing out like a sore thumb at Wellington's Trentham Racecourse, where her husband Cyril is indulging his favourite pastime.
"I like immersing myself in what I love and I can shut the world out just like that," she says.
To her the negotiation process is everything - with every stroke of her pen she is securing the future of her iwi.
"There's every man and his dog there beating the belt, and there I am doing whakapapa," she quips about her racecourse antics.
But the weight of the papers she carries is nothing to that resting on her shoulders as the iwi's chief negotiator.
"It's not just about your expectations, it's about millions of others around you," she says.
Noble is the conduit between two very different sides, one that wants redress for century-old wrongs and the other which she describes as a slave to bureaucracy.
"You know, trying to get together, it's not an easy task to achieve. It is about making sure that you don't lose anyone along the way."
At meeting after meeting Noble has sat around board tables fighting for the rights of her iwi - fighting for respect.
She says it is something that comes second nature to the middle child in a family of 14 siblings.
"What I picked up from my childhood and have taken through the years, it's made me or helped me to make some the decisions I have had to make.
"It's based on that upbringing."
Her passion for the negotiator's role has grown since 2004 when she spearheaded her iwi's fisheries settlement, which saw the return of $2 million in fishery assets.
The current Treaty settlement negotiations began in 2009 and Noble says she has learned to adapt and recognise she's no longer representing herself or the iwi as it exists now, but those who come next.
"This settlement quite simply is not my settlement," she says. "I'm not going to see the full benefits."
Fellow Ngaruahine iwi board member Peter Moeahu says Noble has been the right person for the negotiator's job at the iwi.
"She not only knowledgeable, she's very hard working. She is very committed to her people and determined to succeed on their behalf," he says.
Moeahu credits Noble for the settlement reaching the stage of an agreement in principle.
"It's thanks to Daisy that we have made such good progress with it."
Her present role and standing is a far cry from the youngster who didn't like school. Like so many teenagers, she was stubborn and knew better.
"We took no notice of what went on in the classroom, we just played and for us that's what we believed it was all about," Noble remembers.
At 15 years old she gave school a miss and headed to the South Island where she spent two seasons picking fruit, but the call of Maunga Taranaki was too strong, even trumping the bright lights of Australia.
"I took a trip over to Aussie. I was supposed to be there for a week but three days later I was back in New Zealand. I can't stay away from home too long."
Growing up with nine sisters and six brothers meant finding friends was never an issue in the Noble family.
"You didn't have to imagine that you had a friend that you needed to talk to because you had brothers and sisters."
The 59-year-old treasures her close-knit family and says in many ways it has made up for shortcomings in her education.
"All the life skills we have picked up along the way, the grounding didn't start in an education system; our grounding started in the home system."
These are the same skills that helped her in Maori politics some 30 years ago when she first filled in around the marae table.
She barely left her mother's side growing up so when spots needed filling at the table it just came naturally to her because "someone had to fill them".
Always able to find an excuse to put in her 10 cents worth she soon found herself on numerous trusts.
"In Maoridom you never ever offer to do it because then you get 10 other positions."
Aself-confessed go-getter, there is no slowing her down. Once the final signature goes on the Ngaruahine settlement, Noble has no plans to put her feet up.
She reckons she has more to give.
The iwi has two other forms of potential redress, the Manga negotiations and marine and coastal area claims, which Noble says she will be involved in.
She submitted an application to the Maori Land Court in 2004 on behalf of her hapu to seek orders under the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004. These are still live under the amended Takutaimoana Act.
Noble knows her mother will be looking down on her with a smile as she guides the iwi into a new age. Family is what drives her, and although she has no children of her own, when time with her raft of nieces and nephews is put on hold, she finds it tough.
"The hardest thing about my role is about the lack of opportunity I get to spend time with my family.
"When you grow up in a very close family and you're the only one missing out of the frame [that's hard]."
Through thick and thin Cyril is by her side, or at least in the driving seat as her regular chauffeur.
As racecourses turn to boardrooms and cheering gives way to further discussion it's his turn to fall into his bubble, quietly studying the racing guide in the car park.
"The whole of Maoridom is intent on treaty settlements and there's my one sitting there doing the bloody horses," Noble says laughing.
NGARUAHINE IWI Iwi boundary: From the Taungatara Stream north of Manaia, to the Waihi Stream in the south and from the sea to Mt Taranaki
Population: 3200 in 2006.
Land confiscated: 98,000ha
Treaty claim process started: 2009
Agreement in principle reached: 2013 Cash component of settlement: $67.5 million
Three more stages required to complete process: initial deed, ratify deed and legislation
- Taranaki Daily News
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