People in our past: Legacy of purpose, place

By Margaret Kawharu

For its 150th anniversary, the Herald asked Aucklanders to share their family heritage. Margaret Kawharu, daughter of the late Ngati Whatua scholar and leader Sir Hugh Kawharu, tells the story of her tupuna.

Hugh Kawharu (seen at far left in 1965), embodied the wisdom and mana of tupuna like James Te Hikoi Paora (in cloak) who was a Ngati Whatua rangatira in later life.
Hugh Kawharu (seen at far left in 1965), embodied the wisdom and mana of tupuna like James Te Hikoi Paora (in cloak) who was a Ngati Whatua rangatira in later life.

Whenever my father was looking weary under the strain of his work for Maori, we would say to him, "Why do you do it?", and he would say: "For these people."

We knew who "these people" were. Some of them are in framed photographs on the walls of our homestead, Rangiatea.

One, who has not left a photograph, was my father's great-grandfather, Paora Kawharu. He was born long before colonisation and lived through the early days of Auckland, until his death at 90 in 1908.

The name Kawharu was bestowed on him in memory of a Waikato warrior from Kawhia who had come to fight for Ngati Whatua in the Kaipara and did much to increase their mana. The name Paora was a baptismal name for Paul.

Paora Kawharu was a young man when the great Ngati Whatua chief Te Kawau, who also adopted a biblical name, Apihai, sent a delegation to Waitangi and invited Governor Hobson to establish his capital on the Waitemata.

Twenty years later, amid outbreaks of war over the colony's demand for Maori land, he was at the historic Kohimarama Conference where Governor Gore Brown tried to counter rising tension.

Two generations before Paora was born, the Ngati Whatua chief Tuperiri had extended the iwi's territory over much of the Auckland isthmus. When Tuperiri's grandson, Apihai Te Kawau, gave Hobson the land that is now central Auckland, Orakei and Okahu Bay were to be kept for our people.

Many of them, including Apihai, came back to the Kaipara in the 1860s. War in the Waikato made it a difficult time to be a Maori in Auckland.A curfew meant they could not go to town after dark, and they had to wear a badge during the day.

Yet at the Kohimarama Conference, Paora Tuhaere had affirmed Ngati Whatua's loyalty to the Queen and asked for Maori to be included in the governance of the country.

Paora Kawharu remained in the Kaipara, living in the area now known as Woodhill, later moving to Reweti, near Waimauku, where our marae was established and where some of us live still.

He was a master carver, a tohunga whakairo. His magnificent carved prow for the waka taua Taheretikitiki launched in 1875 can be seen in the Auckland Museum today.

An early enthusiast for education, he was one of a group who established a private school, a "ponga whare", that later became Woodhill School. One of its first pupils was his eldest son, Hauraki Paora, my great-grandfather.

A missionary to the Kaipara asked Paora Kawharu to nominate one of his sons for biblical instruction and he chose Hauraki, who went to Wesley College and became a Wesleyan minister.

Margaret Kawharu (with family photos at their Reweti homestead). Photo / Brett Phibbs
Margaret Kawharu (with family photos at their Reweti homestead). Photo / Brett Phibbs

The youngest son, James Te Hikoi Paora, was in later life the rangatira of the Ngati Whatua o Orakei community. To my father, he was Uncle Jim, a mentor.

Dad's father, Wiremu Paora, went to World War I with the Pioneer Maori Battalion and was injured in the battle of the Somme. He lost an eye and carried shrapnel in his body for the rest of his life.

Dad had been christened Ian Hugh Paora. The name Kawharu was given to him by kaumatua when he was quite young, and with it went a sense of duty he never wavered from.

Like many Maori he did not grow up speaking Maori. He had to learn the language. He mastered it to write the authoritative translation of the Maori text of the Treaty of Waitangi.

His work on Treaty claims and other issues for Maori goes back to 1951 when he accompanied his father and aunts to a compensation court hearing over public work takings for Woodhill Forest. Years later he would remember how they came away feeling this was just not right. It left a lasting impression on him.

That year, 1951, the Ngati Whatua of Orakei were being dispossessed of the last of their land at Okahu Bay and forcibly relocated to state houses in Kitemoana St. All that remained in their ownership was the urupa, the cemetery.

Their 280ha at Orakei had been vested in 13 individual owners by the Native Land Court in 1869, and over the next century the headland with its views of the Waitemata was irresistible. A road was put across Hobson Bay, then a sewer was laid, right across the village/papakainga at Okahu. Paritai Drive became Auckland's dress circle.

Over the years Ngati Whatua took eight actions in the Native Land Court, four in the Supreme Court, two in the Court of Appeal, two in the Compensation Court, six appearances before commissions or committees of inquiry, and 15 petitions to Parliament seeking the restoration of tribal ownership of their land. All failed.

In his time, my father founded the Department of Social Anthropology and Maori studies at Massey University and later the James Henare Maori Research Centre at Auckland University. He served on the Royal Commission of the Courts, (1976-1978), the Board of Maori Affairs (1987-1990), and the Waitangi Tribunal (1986-1996).

Though my father wasn't directly involved in the Bastion Pt occupation in 1977-1978, he assisted the kaumatua, his uncles and aunts, in their negotiations with the government. He chaired the Ngati Whatua o Orakei Maori Trust Board almost entirely from 1978 to 2006. He later concentrated on the wider Treaty claim, especially after the Waitangi Tribunal was empowered to hear historic injustices.

The Ngati Whatua o Orakei claim reached an agreement in principle just before his death in 2006. It was settled in February this year, embracing other iwi with an interest in the region.

My father was a statesman, a scholar and a gentleman, held in high regard by Maori and non-Maori alike. He followed in the footsteps of those before him, most of all those of his own lineage. His legacy demonstrates the value of courtesy, dignity, wisdom and mana. He instils in us a clear sense of place and purpose.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 29 Dec 2014 23:46:18 Processing Time: 613ms