Brought up by a rugby league loving father and staunchly Catholic mother, John Tamihere's parents were a huge influence and encouraging force in his life. Born 10th of 12 children, John was the first to attend university, graduating with a double degree in arts and law. In 1988, he was the youngest Regional Manager, Department of Māori Affairs and the youngest District Solicitor for Waikato Maniapoto Land District.
John was appointed as CEO of West Auckland’s Waipareira Trust as Waitangi Treaty settlements with the Crown were being settled. He was catapulted into politics and won the Hauraki Electorate for Labour, also appointed Chair of the Māori Affairs Select Committee. He soon won the Tāmaki Makaurau seat in 2002 and promoted to Cabinet.
In 2005, John left parliament, returning to Te Whānau O Waipareira Trust, where he has grown the organisation’s balance sheet by 90%, while establishing Waipareira as a local, national and internationally recognised whānau. He has also led the establishment of North Island Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency Te Pou Matakana and remains lead negotiator Ngāti Porou ki Hauraki and Chair of Ngāti Porou ki Hauraki and a Māori appointment on the Māori TV Board.