Sir Pita Sharples inducted into Hall of Honours

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Sir Pita Sharples.
Sir Pita Sharples.

The latest inductee into the Central Hawke's Bay College Honours is Sir Pita Sharples.

Sir Pita attended Central Hawke's Bay College's foundation school Waipukurau District High School from 1954 to 1956.

Born in Waipawa, he is of Ngati Kahungunu descent with strong links to Takapau's Rakautatahi Marae.

Sir Pita studied education at the University of Auckland. After graduating he completed a Masters and PhD in anthropology and linguistics, working within the Education Faculty.

Sir Pita became involved in the formation of the Maori Party in 2004. He was co-leader and served three terms as member for Tamaki Makaurau from 2005 until 2014.

From 2008 until 2014 he was also the minister of Maori Affairs as a minister outside of Cabinet.

Sir Pita retired from Parliament at the end of 2014 and was in 2015 made a Knight Companion of the NZ Order of Merit for services as a member of Parliament and to Maori.

He had previously been awarded the CBE in 1990 for services to the Maori people.

Sir Pita says he was once told by his school headmaster: "I don't know whether to expel you or make you a prefect."

His formative years in Hawke's Bay, including his education at Takapau Primary School, Waipukurau District High School and Te Aute College, have had a lasting effect on him.

The Young Maori Party, established in 1902, was dedicated to improving the position of Maori and grew out of the Te Aute Students Association.

Old boys of Te Aute who were associated with the Young Maori Party included Sir Apirana Ngata, who had served as inspiration for Sir Pita in his career as an academic and politician.

Graduating from the college, he felt a yearning to head north and attended the University of Auckland, studying education.

He remained at the university for several years as an instructor, working at the Faculty of Education. He gained an MA (first class) in anthropology, and later a PhD in anthropology and linguistics.

"I was given the option of studying archaeology or linguistics. Being ignorant and superstitious, I didn't want to dig up bones and stones, so I did languages."

His language studies, focused on Noam Chomsky's concept of transformational grammar, led him as far afield as the Solomon Islands. In addition to his academic work, he has long advocated a separate Maori political party.

He says the movement that eventually snowballed into the modern Maori Party began in Hawke's Bay.

Sir Pita plans to continue working in race relations, which may include teaching Maori etiquette to Auckland businesses, with regular visits to Hawke's Bay.

He said he wanted to see more te teo language initiatives because they had the ability to empower Maori.

"If people respect our language they will learn it, for good reasons, and that will do so much to cement our people."

- The inaugural inductees will be presented with their awards at a function on Thursday, October 20, at CHB College. A regular process of nominations will continue each year and new people will be added to the Hall of Honour each year.

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