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Harawira: Farewell to a Queen

Te Reo o Te Tai Tokerau Column

originally published in The Northland Age 22 August 2006

Farewell to a Queen

I attended the tangi for Dame Te Atairangikaahu along with a delegation from Te Rarawa, Aupouri and Ngati Kahu.

Thousands of people were there from all walks of life, all races, all religions, all ages, all iwi. There were politicians and paupers, princesses and pirates, kaumatua and kuia, workers and unemployed, the glitzy and the guileless, and as in every gathering of this size, the good the bad and even the ugly ones turned up.

There were heaps of Maori Wardens all pleasantly directing traffic, and pointing people to the massive kai marquee set up outside the marae, and police iwi-liaison officers from all round the country not having to work too hard because everyone was in a good mood.

All the media were there, and even before we got onto the marae, I got waylaid by three tv crews, two radio stations, and a couple of freelance writers for my views about the Lady and Ngapuhi's bid for the Kingitanga.

When we went on, we did so along with Princess Pilolevu of Tonga, Queen Pa Te Paeru Ariki of Rarotonga, a delegation from Hawai'i, Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Brigadier Jerry Mataparae and his troops, Bishop Brian Tamaki and the Destiny Church, and people from all round the country there just to pay final respects to the Queen.

Tukuroirangi Morgan, chairman of the Tainui Trust Board, welcomed us onto the marae. Tuku is finally filling a niche carved out for him many moons ago as Tainui's golden boy. He spoke well, noting all groups in a gracious and dignified welcome.

When I spoke, I realised that I had forgotten the koha. But in a gesture warmly received by the Tainui people, and roundly applauded by the visitors, I took off my Maori Party jacket, and laid it on the ground as my parting gift to a woman worthy of the title of Queen.

Prayer for a King

After Turangawaewae, I asked my kaumatua whether we might stop off at Mercy Hospital in Auckland to pay our respects to King Tupou of Tonga. They agreed, and at 5.30pm two busloads pulled in at the hospital and moved into the lobby.

The King was resting upstairs, but Princess Salote Pilolevu Tuita and members of the royal Tongan entourage came down to join with us in a short karakia. It was a simple but moving affair, followed by a speech of thanks from the Kings "talking chief."

I thanked the princess for agreeing to our visit, asked her to pass on our best wishes to her father, and reaffirmed our links to our Pacific cousins.

One of the Tongan entourage was very moved by our visit. He thanked us for calling in to pay our respects, said it was a very significant occasion for his King, and said that he would ensure our best wishes were passed on to the King when he awoke.

A day of remembrances...a day to remember...


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