Monte Ohia; Miriama Kahu and Maketu John Simpson
Champions of the Maori Party:
Monte Ohia; Miriama Kahu and Maketu John Simpson
Te Puna Wanaka, Christchurch Polytechnic, CHRISTCHURCH
Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party
Friday 10 October 2008; 8pm
It is my honour tonight to speak of our mighty cause champions; our personal heroes; our loved friends, Monte and Miriama.
When Maire first shared the concept of a night to pay tribute to these stunning cause champions I was really humbled to be able to play a part.
And somewhat intrigued, too, at the concept of a cause champion.
As I found out, a cause champion is someone who literally champions the cause – they would fight for life, defend to the max, the people, the project, the purpose.
A champion is an evangelist, a visionary advocate who clears the field for the triumph of the idea.
In the days of Camelot a champion was in a fighter class with the power to wield magic as well.
Magic, vision, ideas, causes - yes that about covers it.
As I flew down here today, across the Alps and over the glistening waters, I thought about the incredible sacrifice and commitment that has been given in pursuit of the cause.
Yesterday, we gathered at Taiwhakaea Marae in Whakatane to farewell another beloved champion of the party – Maketu John Simpson.
John was the man behind www.maoriparty.com.
He was also the man behind Te Reo Irirangi o Te Manuka Tutahi Trust, a leading light in Maori radio broadcasting, a staunch supporter of Te Runanga o Ngati Awa, the Ngati Awa health committee; his marae at Paroa and Te Whanau-a-Apanui; the Pu kaea project, the Rotoehu Forest Trust – and that’s only half of it.
You see the thing with cause champions is they don’t just do one thing brilliantly – they do everything with gusto. There’s nothing half-hearted about our heroes. They give it all.
John was absolutely dedicated to maintaining the strength of the whakapapa knowledge throughout his iwi and hapu. He was a proud and ardent advocate for te reo rangatira. And he was a stickler for quality.
He had the sharpest intellect and wittiest repartee for each and every occasion. At the tangi, one of his cousins said, if only the flies on the wall could talk. In fact we were amazed that John hadn’t somehow created an electronic medium with which to hear them – I’m sure they’d be saying, “two ticks to the Maori Party”.
In death, as in life, John thrived in making connections - whether they be on soundwave, or broadband, or whakapapa.
And so it is only fitting that he now connects us to this incredible duo - the Miriama and Monte show.
Or perhaps that should be Sonny and Cher? Donny and Marie? Fred and Ginger?
Better still, Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack singing –
tonight I celebrate my love for you,
it seems the natural thing to do.
Indeed, we do celebrate our love for Monte Ohia and Miriama Kahu, in every moment of this night, but so significantly, into tomorrow and the days, weeks and years to come.
It is so very natural to have the love of Monte and Miriama to guide us into the future, because that was the great gift of who they were.
Monte used to still a crowd with the quiet wisdom of his words, “we have not been here before”.
We have not been here before – in a time when our passion, our determination, our kaupapa have propelled us forward to know we can have influence.
We have not been here before –to have a presence which is determined by us, for us, about us.
We have not been here before – but Monte and Miriama have paved the way to help make it possible.
It was always exhilarating to be in a hui when Monte was in full flight – or to be in a meeting when Miriama was sharing her vision for Ariama or for Te Tai o Marokura.
They had such incredible enthusiasm running through their veins that it was impossible to be unaffected.
Even in the most stressful of situations, Monte would rub his hands together and exclaim how “AWESOME” it was that we could all share our feelings so openly.
Miriama had that unique ability to laugh and love with such a full heart that even the most tormentous health board audits could be put into perspective.
That perspective was all to do with having a wider vision for the people, for living and breathing whanau ora.
I have the utmost admiration for the way in which Miriama’s whanau and three other families in the area, mortgaged their homes to establish Whale Watch some 21 years ago.
To anyone else, the odds were all against them. Banks refused to help, unemployment was rife, the kids were getting in trouble – and what did they do – they took the risk of their life – and made it happen.
Of course the Solomon whanau were used to risking all, having the courage of what they believed in.
Miriama’s Dad used to talk to local Pakeha groups, telling them about the local land confiscations, talking about how the land had been ripped out of Ngai Tahu hands, long before people were speaking out about such things.
For Monte the obstacles came through the maze of bureaucracy in which he persevered to instill his vision of whanau transformation.
He started off teaching at Queen Charlotte College in Picton in the late 1960s, worked as an advisor to South Island schools, sat on advisory committees and working parties and review groups, prepared resources, and kept on keeping on to the heights of leadership in the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.
Throughout all, he wanted more for his Maori students.
He lived his life with a fervent vision that through education would come transformation. He wanted to see Maori learning and teaching theories accelerate participation, retention and achievement rates in education.
His dream led him first to Te Wananga o
Aotearoa, and then finally as Te Pou
Both Miriama and Monte shared the most powerful love for their people.
Miriama believed living richly was more important than being rich. She saw the strength and incredible resilience that came from being immersed in the wealth of your culture.
She knew the abundance that came with whakawhanaungatanga.
The establishment of a mara kai and an orchard on Takahanga marae was not just about caring for their own wellbeing – it was also the responsibility to serve the iwi, and to feed their guests, to practice manaakitanga.
Ariama was the ultimate paradise that Miriama had in her sights. A place to heal, to restore, to be nurtured, to have space to create, to grow visions, to plan a future which would meet the aspirations of Ngati Kuri, a time to retreat and rebuild.
For Monte, supreme and utter bliss was found in every sphere in which he lived.
He loved kapa haka – his days in Nga Kohikohinga kappa haka group were just awesome. His experiences across the globe, culminating in the establishment of the World Christian gathering on Indigenous People, were incredible.
His love of rugby was immense. His work with native American nations, first nations people of Canada, the Saami of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, were just out of this world.
And of course for all of us in the Maori Party, that consistently over-brimming zeal and enthusiasm rubbed off on even the most cynical of us. You simply couldn’t be in Monte’s company without feeling great.
And that’s why the people of Te Tai Tonga loved him. That’s why the people of Te Paati Maori loved him. That’s why the people flocked to his tangi, for one last memory, one last moment to cherish all that he was, and is to us.
Miriama and Monte had a powerful faith, a spiritual strength and sustenance that kept them positive, kept them vibrant and excited.
And their love for their partners, their children, their mokopuna was absolutely overwhelming.
We can’t even begin to think how Linda and Spencer have got through the months since this loss engulfed our lives.
We know that the presence of Monte and Miriama is never more compelling than in the characters of their children, their expressions, their optimism, their commitment.
And we know too, that
the enormous laughter, the cheekiness, the twinkle in
Kahil Gibran in the Prophet tells us, ‘for what is it to die, but to stand in the sun and melt into the wind’.
We know that Miriama and Monte are with us now, through the sun and the wind, the storms and the beauty of life.
Their lives were so full; full of integrity, conviction, aroha.
All of us here tonight, have made a commitment in our own lives, that the legacy of these outstanding champions will live on.
Both Miriama and Monte gave their all for the vision of tino rangatiratanga. They both looked on the Maori Party as the political vehicle for a journey they had spent their life investing in.
We know that the seat of Te Tai Tonga will be a Maori Party seat on 8 November. That in less than a month’s time, Rahui Katene will be the MP for Te Tai Tonga. As Monte would tell us, THIS IS OUR TIME.
We know that Ariama will continue to thrive, that the heartbeat of Miriama will continue to sustain all who come through its doors.
They have given us the confidence and the knowledge, that we can do it, that we can believe in our own health and social wellbeing; that we can believe in matauranga Maori; that we can achieve whanau transformation.
They lived richly; and we are better for having had the privilege of their love in our lives, to guide us forward.
And so finally, tonight, as we reflect on all that we have learnt and loved about Miriama, Monte and Maketu John Simpspon; we remember them; we honour them; we celebrate them.
It seems the natural thing to do.