'Great totara' leaves lasting legacy

By Cherie Taylor

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Tewi Rawiri Te Whare was a great leader and negotiator who has left a legacy for future generations.

The 69-year-old with affiliates to Ngati Tahu/Ngati Whaoa and Ngati Rereahu died surrounded by his family at Waikato Hospital on Sunday.

Tributes from Prime Minister John Key, iwi and family members flowed for the remarkable kaumatua who drew people together as one to settle many Central North Island treaty grievances throughout the past 20 years.

The area immediately outside Ohaaki Marae on the shores of the Waikato River was packed with almost 1000 people including Crown delegates, police, people from the farming community and many iwi and family members.

Known as Rawiri or David, throughout the funeral service it was clear Te Arawa had lost a great leader who had instilled good values in everyone he met and mentored, as the words "a great totara has fallen" resounded throughout the tributes and service.

Family member Reuben Collier told of a stern but fair uncle he learned a lot from.

Mr Te Whare was one of 16 children born at Otorohanga to Pita and Rina Te Whare and was honoured in 2010 by the Queen as a companion of the New Zealand order of merit.

Mr Collier said his uncle was a spiritual man with a lot of knowledge he shared with many young people he mentored.

He served God first and his people second but whatever he started, he completed, he said.

"He was a perfectionist ... he was a spiritual leader first. It was his spiritual walk that prepared him to be a great leader for his people and a great negotiator."

Anyone who knew him was blessed.

"He was quite sharp ... it was a privilege and honour to have known him. He has lived a very full life. He did so much for his people ... the great thing about a good leader is he will leave a legacy."

During the service, family members sung a waiata (song) written by Mr Te Whare called Mai i te Waiheke, as some people sat on the lawn outside the marae, crying and holding their children close. Every chair was taken.

Roger Pikia from Ngati Tahu/Ngati Whaoa spoke of a man with a wealth of wisdom he shared with anyone he met.

The kaumatua was loyal and earned the respect of everyone he worked with, including the Crown during tribal negotiations, Mr Pikia said.

"That loyalty was reciprocated," he said. "He had the ability to earn the respect of the Crown during the settlement process."

However, he knew when to stand back and let others take over if he felt he was hindering things for the tribes, Mr Pikia said.

His legacy is the people he passed knowledge on to, Mr Pikia said.

He will be remembered by future leaders.

Mr Te Whare was buried at Kauae Cemetery in Ngongotaha.

He is survived by his wife, Patricia, children and mokopuna.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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