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Poroporoaki Hema Nui a Tawhaki Witana Dell Wihongi

Poroporoaki: Hema Nui a Tawhaki Witana (Dell Wihongi)

27 July 2008

“Te tai ra, te tai ra! E pari ana ki whea?

E pari ana ki te kauheke, kaumatua, he tipua!”

The Māori Party is greatly saddened to hear of the passing of Te Rarawa kuia, Dell Wihongi.

“Her name is synonymous with WAI 262, a claim lodged with the Waitangi Tribunal to protect and preserve indigenous flora and fauna and associated cultural and intellectual heritage,” said Co-leader Tariana Turia.

“Wai 262 was filed in 1991 on behalf of six claimant iwi by Dell, Saana Murray (Ngati Kuri), Witi McMath (Ngati Wai), John Hippolite (Ngati Koata), Tama Poata (Te Whanau a Rua of Ngati Porou) and Kataraina Rimene (Ngāti Kahungunu),” she said.

“Dell was an activist on many fronts” said Mrs Turia. “Another project she spearheaded was to explore the economic potential of the unique white kumara.

“Pu Hao Rangi Trust (guardians of the early kumara) formed a joint venture with Tahuri Whenua Inc (National Maori Vegetable Grower’s Collective) to protect the oldest and most culturally significant varieties of kumara.

“This project required a trip to Japan to retrieve varieties that DSIR had passed over to the Tsukuba National Agricultural Centre. Dell believed that rather than letting our kumara tubers be scattered to ‘ngā hau e wha’, tangata whenua should retain guardianship”.

“Another vision of Dell’s was to establish Te Wao Nui a Tane National Ethnobotanical Garden in Auckland. The idea was to have a garden containing all the native plants valued by Mäori; grouped according to their traditional uses, an idea that DSIR was prepared to invest in”.

“More recently, Dell was one of the Commissioners who led the 2006 People's Inquiry into the Impacts and Effects of Aerial Spraying Pesticide over Urban Areas of Auckland, a report which has made an important contribution to biosecurity policy in Aotearoa.”

“Dell’s influence was profound in many spheres, including efforts to incorporate a Mäori dimension into the mainstream science establishment, and advice to ensure that tangata whenua were fully involved in the science reforms to create Crown Research Institutes,” said Mrs Turia.

“She and her late husband Haki Wihongi were also founding members of Te Whanau o Waipareira, and they played key roles in establishing a cultural base for the post-war generation of Maori migrants to Auckland city,” said Co-leader Dr Pita Sharples.

“She was a tireless campaigner, a wise leader, and an inspiration to many for her lifelong dedication towards preserving our taonga” said Dr Sharples. “Her passing is an enormous loss to tangata whenua of Te Tai Tokerau, to Maori people all over the country, and to many indigenous peoples all over the world,” he said.

“E Kui, kua whakarerea o tamariki, to whanau, to iwi, e tangi ana i te mokemoke.

“E te rangatira, hoki atu i te Ara Wairua, hoki atu ki te wa kainga, haere tonu atu ki te Rerenga Wairua, ki te Aka ki te Reinga, haere ki te Po! Haere ki te Po!”


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