Ngati Kahungunu Iwi deputy chairman and Wairoa Maori leader Rill (Riwai) Meihana died yesterday at his home at Nuhaka in Northern Hawke's Bay.
A three-times election challenger to the chairmanship of long-term iwi leader Ngahiwi Tomoana, he was into his eighth year on the iwi board and was chairman of the board of Wairoa Taiwhenua.
Under his leadership, the Wairoa Taiwhenua Board supported grants to Wairoa Marae, funding for local events, financial sponsorship to IronMāori participants, assistance for tamariki to travel to the Kahungunu AGM Pa Sports at Splash Planet and found putea to assist rangatahi initiatives and their environmental work in the Wairoa community.
He was passionate about his community and represented whānau, hapū and iwi on a number of local and regional committees, including Ngāti Rangi hapū, Wairoa Alcohol and Drug Day Counselling Services, Te Poho o Te Rehu Marae, Nuhaka Māori Tribal Committee, Aramatua Farm Corporation, Kahungunu Marae Committee, Wairoa Hospital Select Committee, Rakaipaaka hapū Treaty Clams committee and the Ngāti Rangi Mautoki Treaty Claims Committee.
Mr Meihana and wife Larraine managed a Child Youth and Family Home in Wairoa for 17 ½ years, Mr Meihana learning many important values about protecting the needs of his people.
Mr Tomoana said that as a community person Rill Meihana aspired to promoting and strengthening pathways to healthy lifestyles and he tried his best to advocate for and in behalf of whānau, hapū and iwi.
"Rill was a staunch advocate for Kahungunu and 'an abrupt to the point leader' who maintained the mana of Kahungunu 24/7" said Mr Tomoana. "He was my deputy chairman for the past eight years. I will miss him."
Mr Meihana is survived by his wife and he was the proud father of Dr Suzanne Pitama and Denal Meihana. He had four grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
He was due to arrive at Te Poho o Te Rehu Marae early last night to be taken today to Kahungunu Marae where he will remain until his final service on Friday at Latter Day Saints Chapel (State Highway 2).