Dr Morehu Ngatoko Rahipere 02.12.27 - 20.02.18
City leaders and iwi are mourning the loss of a "gentle and wise" leader, Dr Morehu Ngatoko Rahipere.
Dr Ngatoko Rahipere passed away peacefully at home in Judea surrounded by his whanau early on Tuesday morning.
The Māori advocate was the leader and elder of Ngāti Ranginui and a descendant of Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Awa. He had been a supporter for the coming together of Māori and non-Māori in the region for many decades.
Charlie Rahiri, of Ngāti Ranginui, was Dr Ngatoko Rahipere's grandson by marriage and said his koro (grandfather) was an "inspiring man".
"He was a humble man who commanded attention because of his humility.
"He got on well with both Māori and Pākehā and he had a lot of friends and a lot of love for people," Rahiri said.
One of the most enduring memories Rahiri had of his grandfather came recently when he travelled to Whanganui, despite being ill, to see his grandson ordained as a minister of the Ratana Church.
"He taught me a lot, especially walking me through the church," Rahiri said.
Through his 90 years, Dr Ngatoko Rahipere touched many lives and had been recognised for his work towards advancing Māori interests.
In 2007, he was a recipient of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his contribution to Māori. At 89 years old, Dr Ngatoko Rahipere received an honorary doctorate from the University of Waikato for his contribution to the university over many years.
He had been instrumental in shaping the Tauranga City Council's relationship with Tangata Whenua of Tauranga Moana for more than 30 years and had also provided cultural guidance to the Western Bay of Plenty District Council.
Tauranga City Council Strategic Māori Engagement manager Carlo Ellis said although he was known as Dr Ngatoko Rahipere, to many he was simply "Uncle Morehu".
"He was always a strong advocate for the rights of tangata whenua here with firm but fair views. He was a wealth of knowledge on matters of history and tikanga māori," he said.
Ellis described Dr Ngatoko Rahipere as a "humble leader" who fought for many years to have the manawhenua of Ngai Tamarawaho acknowledged throughout Tauranga.
Former Tauranga City Mayor Stuart Crosby said the news was a "big loss to the city".
"He was a quiet leader that was highly respected. When he spoke everyone listened."
Crosby said Dr Ngatoko Rahipere played an "enormous" role in improving the relationship of Tauranga Moana Iwi and the Tauranga City Council.
He had a calm demeanour and was often the voice of reason during discussions, Crosby said.
"He would often say 'Let's sit down and talk about it.' The vast majority of times we would listen and work the issue through," Crosby said.
Thousands of people were expected to attend Dr Ngatoko Rahipere's farewell including the Māori King, Kiingi Tuheitia who was due to arrive at Huria Marae today.
Despite making many great achievements in his lifetime, Dr Ngatoko Rahipere told the Bay of Plenty Times in 2007 that his greatest achievement was his large whanau.
Dr Ngatoko Rahipere had 11 children, 40-plus grandchildren, more than 50 great-grandchildren and "a couple of" great-great-grandchildren, Rahiri said.
"He has left a big legacy."
He was better known as Morehu Ngatoko.
Details of the Tangihanga and funeral
Dr Ngatoko Rahipere will lay in state at Wairoa Marae, Tauranga on Tuesday, February 20. At 8am on Wednesday, February 21, he will be taken to Huria Marae, Tauranga where he will spend the duration of his Tangihanga. The funeral service will be on Friday, February 23 at 7.30am. Following that Dr Ngatoko Rahipere will be taken to his final resting place at Motuōpae.