PM Tribute - Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu
Tuesday 22 August 2006
Rt Hon Helen Clark
Parliamentary Tribute to Te Arikinui
Dame Te Atairangikaahu
Tuesday 22 August 2006
Over the past week, many fine tributes have been paid to the late Te Arikinui, Dame Te Atairangikaahu.
Dame Te Ata passed away eight days ago, only a few short weeks after the celebrations for her fortieth anniversary as Maori Queen and then of her 75th birthday.
Dame Te Ata was a humble and unassuming woman who over forty years as Te Arikinui made her presence felt in innumerable ways.
She has been a source of continuity and a force for stability throughout that time.
She represented links to the past and to the origins of Kingitanga, but she was also one of the creators of a new future for Māoridom.
She was patron of the Māori Women’s Welfare League – and in turn the League was an important support system for her throughout New Zealand.
Similarly she was a strong supporter of the revival of te reo Māori and all initiatives associated with that, from the establishment of kohanga reo and kura kaupapa, to Māori Television.
In the world of arts and culture, she gave strong backing to kapahaka across New Zealand, but could also be seen at the local arts festival in Huntly – and occasionally at opera and ballet in Auckland’s Aotea Centre.
She was a lover of sport and a promoter of physical activity for young people – through rugby league, through the waka competitions on the Waikato; and could often be found at other major sporting events.
Wherever anything held opportunity for Māoridom, Dame Te Ata could be found.
It is significant that it was in Dame Te Ata’s own role, Waikato Tainui, that the first major Treaty settlement with the Crown in modern times was made.
This took courage. To be first is to lead, and in this case to set benchmarks for others which would be carefully scrutinised. Not all were supportive, but Waikato-Tainui’s settlement with Dame Te Ata’s backing paved the way for a new era for Māoridom.
This was consistent with Dame Te Ata's quest for reconciliation between Maori and Pakeha.
She saw us as two peoples in one nation.
She wanted New Zealand to work for all of us.
She knew that righting the wrongs of the past would help us build a better future, as it has.
Dame Te Ata was a force for unity in diversity in our country, and I believe we are the stronger for it.
In recent days I have highlighted the extraordinary representational job Dame Te Ata did for New Zealand.
At home she was a gracious host to many dignitaries – royalty, heads of state, heads of government, ministers, diplomats and other dignitaries.
She travelled widely, to Europe, Asia, the Americas, and particularly to the Pacific where she built strong links.
Our Pacific neighbours were well represented in the ceremonies of recent days in recognition of the time Dame Te Ata had invested in relationships in the Pacific.
Over the past week, countless thousands of people have flowed to Turangawaewae to pay their respects.
The tears have flowed for Te Ata and the whanau pani.
Waikato Tainui have been outstanding hosts to so many.
Organisation of a tangi on this scale for one so widely revered is a massive undertaking, and it has been undertaken with great skill and enormous dignity.
More broadly, this last week's events have drawn us together as a nation.
Respect for Dame Te Ata flowed across our communities. Dame Te Ata brought us together at the time of her passing as she did throughout her life.
As a young person growing up in the Waikato in 1966, I recall the vivid images of King Koroki's passing, and of that last journey up the sacred mountain of Taupiri.
Yesterday it was Dame Te Ata's turn to be carried up Taupiri to journey there one last time.
The image which will forever stay with me is that hillside erupting spontaneously with song, chanting, and haka as her casket moved towards it.
Dame Te Ata will be greatly missed for her friendship to all, her dignity, and her wise counsel for so many.
To the new king, Te Arikinui Tuheitia Paki, we wish you well as you shoulder the responsibilities of leadership of the Kingitanga
The new king brings the qualities to the job of his mother before him
- a willingness to listen
Like Dame Te Ata, he too will become a force to be reckoned with in Māoridom – and a force for unity in New Zealand as a whole.