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Obituary: Professor Sir Hugh Kawharu

Professor Sir Hugh Kawharu, ONZ
Chairman Ngati Whatua o Orakei Maori Trust Board

Professor Sir Hugh Kawharu, Chair of the Ngati Whatua o Orakei Maori Trust Board and an Emeritus Professor of the University of Auckland has died at his home in Auckland after a brief illness.

He was a Foundation Professor (personal chair) in Social Anthropology and Maori Studies at Massey University from 1970-1984 and Professor of Maori Studies and Head of Department of the Anthropology Department at the University of Auckland from 1985-1993. Sir Hugh has authored, edited and co-authored publications on Maori Land Tenure, The Treaty of Waitangi and Ethnicity. He holds an MA (Cambridge) and a DPhil (Oxford).

Sir Hugh has an outstanding record of service as an academic and as a leader of Maori and Pakeha people alike. In 1970 he was the foundation Professor of Social Anthropology and Maori Studies at Massey University. Between 1985 and 1993 he was Professor of Maori Studies and Head of the Department of Anthropology, and Foundation Director of the James Henare Maori Research Centre, at Auckland University. He is an Honorary Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford and Patron of Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

He has been involved with a wide variety of academic and professional organisations. Notable among these are as Research Fellow with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN); the New Zealand Council for Educational Research; the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO; the Royal Commission for Courts; the New Zealand Maori Council; the Waitangi Tribunal; the Trust Board of the Auckland War Memorial Museum and the Arts Foundation of New Zealand.

He has been Chairman of the Ngati Whatua o Orakei Maori Trust Board for twenty six years, and of the Orakei Reserves Board since its establishment in 1992. He was also involved in the creation of Te Runanga o Ngati Whatua, a unifying body for all his tribe. He is a former Board member of The Edge and is the current representative member for Ngati Whatua o Orakei for Safer Auckland City.

In 2002 Sir Hugh was made a member of the Order of New Zealand and in 2005 received Auckland City’s Distinguished Citizen Award.

Sir Hugh is survived by daughters Margaret, Evelyn, Lindy, Merata and Amokura; sons-in-law Hans Van der Brink, Hans-Jan Van Luit, Dr Paul Tapsell, Nick Wells; grandchildren Zen, Kylian, Moana, Justin, Joey, Piere and Freda.

Sir Hugh Kawharu, leader, elder and servant of Ngati Whatua, Maoridom and the nation is remembered:

“It is hard to imagine life in Auckland without Sir Hugh Kawharu. He has been a towering presence in our city for decades, as a senior kaumatua of Ngati Whatua and as an outstanding academic at the University of Auckland. His contribution to numerous New Zealand and international agencies and committees has been extraordinary. He will be sorely missed."
Helen Clark, Prime Minister

“My first contact with Sir Hugh was in the 70s when he was working for the Royal Commission for Courts and I was a young lawyer. I remember so distinctly his real grasp of the importance of the court system for the people. Over the years I came to meet with him much more frequently. The high spot for me was conferring the Order of New Zealand upon him at Orakei Marae in 2002. It was my honour really on behalf of the people of New Zealand. He made such an extraordinarily broad contribution – academically, to Maori – all New Zealanders really. Above all I will remember him for his grace, warmth, affection and great dignity which only increased as you came to know him.”
Dame Sylvia Cartwright – Former Governor General

"Sir Hugh was a man of great mana in the Pakeha and Maori worlds. Whether it was the Queen or a first year student of Maori studies, Sir Hugh engendered respect because he himself was a beacon of respect for the dignity of others no matter their circumstances. That is the kind of citizenship I want to champion –the kind that crosses culture, race and even time to achieve for the common good."
Dick Hubbard, Mayor of Auckland City

“Sir Hugh’s contribution to the cultural wellbeing of Auckland and its Museum has been immeasurable. Typically understated, and always statesmanlike, Sir Hugh has guided the Trust Board’s decision-making on matters Maori with unparalleled understanding, impeccable timing and unfailing charm over many years. He will be deeply missed by all those who hold cultural matters important and who prefer the art of reason and good manners over the tactics of bluster and belligerence. The sadness he leaves is assuaged only by the knowledge of what a good and decent life he lived and the value of his legacy. The Museum thanks his whanau for having lent him to us for so long and our collective heart now goes out to them.”
David Hill, Chairman Auckland Museum Trust Board

“Sir Hugh was a bridge builder, mentor, guide and elder, not just to his people but to our nation during a time when we became conscious of our unique cross-cultural identity. He now takes his place beside his mentors –Buck, Ngata, Fergusson – as New Zealand mourns the loss of one of its great icons.”
Dr Paul Tapsell, Director Maori, Tamaki Paenga Hira Auckland Museum

“Sir Hugh has made a long and valuable contribution to Tamaki Paenga Hira – Auckland Museum. He has always maintained as a priority in his thinking the weight of obligation to our ancestors, whilst constantly exploring ways to involve people of the current generation. He is a great chief of Ngati Whatua and the world is better for his contribution.”

“Papa te whaititiri
Uira kapakapa
Tu ka riri
Rongomai ka hake”

Bernard Makoare, Ngati Whatua; Taumata-a-IwI, Tamaki Paenga Hira – Auckland Museum

“Sir Hugh has served the museum's governance over many years, initially as a member of its former governing body, the council of Auckland Institute and Museum and since 1996 as the Taumata-a-Iwi representative on the current trust board. Sir Hugh played a significant role in assisting the drafting of new legislation for the museum, including the creation of the Taumata, the first statutory Maori advisory committee for a New Zealand museum. He has been a constant source of wisdom in matters Maori during his long period of service. I always valued Sir Hugh's upholding of the scholarly and educational values of the museum. With a quiet authority he would remind us that these were the foundations upon which our programmes and activities were built.”
Dr Rodney Wilson, Director, Auckland War Memorial Museum


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