Tauranga carver and convicted paedophile dead

Tauranga master carver Tuti Tukaokao died yesterday aged 72 after a long battle with cancer.

Mr Tukaokao belonged to the iwi of Ngati Ranginui and Te Arawa, but his main hapu links were with Ngaitamarawaho of Judea and Ngati Hangarau of Bethlehem.

The final months of Mr Tukaokao's life were plagued by revelations of a past life of sexual deviance and paedophilia, culminating last week with his conviction on charges of rape and indecent assault, for which he received a five-and-a-half year jail sentence.

Mr Tukaokao will lie in state on the Judea marae of Ngaitamarawaho in the Tamateapokaiwhenua meeting house -- the house which he, as a promising young carver aged 19, was invited to help carve in the 1950s.

In 1966 Mr Tukaokao and John Taiapa were appointed as the foundation carvers for the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua.

Mr Tukaokao's legacy as a carver can be seen throughout Tauranga and the Western Bay.

During his lifetime he contributed to the carving of 26 meeting houses, four waka taua (war canoes) and numerous commissioned carvings which now adorn civic and educational facilities both in New Zealand and internationally.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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