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Cook Islands Tributes to Maori Queen

Cook Islands prime minister pays respects to Maori Queen

Cook Islands leaders today joined well-wishers and mourners as news was received of the death of the Maori Queen Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu

Prime minister Jim Marurai said it was with great sadness that Cook Islanders had learned of the passing of Dame Te Ata.

“The people and government of the Cook Islands join the Maori people of New Zealand, and all New Zealanders, in mourning the loss of Dama Te Ata,” he said.

“She touched the lives of us all with her grace and compassion, and will be fondly remembered always.”

In an official message to Dame Te Ata’s husband and family, and the people of Tainui, Marurai said, “We hope that your sorrow will be relieved by the thought that she contributed in many ways to her people and to the way of life of all New Zealand.

“Please accept our deepest sympathies and prayers at this time of sadness.”

The prime minister has called on all government departments and non-government organisations in the Cook Islands to pay their respects by flying flags at half mast on Monday (CI time) when Dame Te Ata’s tangihana ends with her funeral.

Head of state pays tribute

Many Cook Islanders are grieving as if Te Arikinui Dame Atairangikaahu was one of their own, according to Queen’s Representative Sir Frederick Goodwin.

He said today that the Cook Islands people had grown closer to New Zealand Maori as a result of Dame Te Ata’s 40-year reign, and even at this year’s coronation celebrations she had strengthened that bond by warmly embracing the Cook Islands representatives who attended the koroneihana.

Sir Frederick and Lady Goodwin headed three different parties of about 300 Cook Islanders who attended the celebrations in Ngaruawahia in May.

“Dame Te Ata had great affinity with our country and our people and was looked upon as a mother figure because of the love she always displayed toward us,” he said.

Sir Frederick said he first met Dame Te Ata in 2001 at the 35th anniversary of her coronation, and he had since spent time with her in 2003 at Niue’s centennial celebrations of association with New Zealand, and again at the 40th anniversary.

“Although she was frail at this year’s koroneihana, Dame Te Ata still exuded her gracious manner and the vision that has united Maori people and given them the inspiration to uphold their language, their customs and their traditions.

“She was one of the most loved leaders New Zealanders have ever known, and will always be remembered as the gracious and humble queen who walked and talked with the utmost dignity.”

The head of state said he wanted condolences from the Cook Islands to be communicated to all New Zealanders and especially to the Tainui people.

Sir Frederick and Lady Goodwin are expected to attend next Tuesday’s funeral (NZ time) as representatives of the Cook Islands government and people.

Sir Geoffrey Henry, related to queen

The Maori queen was not only a great woman but she was also a wonderful person who was compassionate and cared not just for the people of Tainui but for the Maori people of New Zealand as a whole, says Sir Geoffrey Henry, leader of the opposition and former prime minister.

Even more than that, she had a keen desire to establish relationships between New Zealand Maori and the Maori people of Polynesia, he says.

Sir Geoffrey’s tribute continues:

For this reason she paid a number of visits to the Cook Islands as well as to other places in the Pacific in order to reconnect with their Polynesian roots.

She was a person who was extremely keen to make life for New Zealand Maori better and better still, and she worked hard at working towards that end.

She was equally concerned for the wellbeing of Polynesian people in the Pacific and like no other woman, she led the movement to find a better place in the sun for Polynesian people.

I am fortunate to have known her so well and to have interacted with her on several occasions and in fact to be closely related to her.

I have nothing but the fondest memories and the highest admiration for such a wonderful person. My heart goes out to her husband and their children and indeed the whole of the Tainui tribe and the Maori people of Polynesia.


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