Editorial: Maori world mourns

By Greg Taipari

Another great totara has fallen and the Maori world weeps. The people of the East Coast are in mourning for their much loved son Parekura Horomia, 62, who died at his home in Mangatuna surrounded by his whanau.

Born in Tolaga Bay of Ngati Porou, Te Atianga Hauiti, Ngati Kahungunu and Ngai Tahu descent Mr Horomia came from humble beginnings, despite coming from senior chieftainship lines. After leaving school he was a labourer, fencer, scrub cutter, printer, shearer and forestry contractor.

But even in those early days Mr Horomia was recognised by his iwi to be the man to help lead his people. In the early 1980s he oversaw work schemes for the Labour Department on the East Coast. Eventually his journey would lead him to the political arena and in 1999 Mr Horomia would win the Ikaroa Rawhiti seat he would hold until his death on Monday.

During his time as an MP he experienced the highs and the lows a job in the public sector can bring - from his 2000 appointment to Minister of Maori Affairs, a role he held until 2008 when Labour lost the election, to the unpopularity of the Foreshore and Seabed Act in 2004.

In the eyes of many Pakeha Mr Horomia's abilities were doubted but in Maori eyes he was beyond his peers. No better example of this was in the debating chamber of Parliament where at times he would struggle to express himself with the English language. But get him debating a topic on a marae and he was unparalleled. Within Maoridom he was a man of great mana and a powerful orator.

Mr Horomia's heart was huge and loyal to his iwi. What many didn't know was he was a class rugby player in his younger days. Obviously his ability to sidestep tricky situations, especially during the Foreshore and Seabed issues, came from his time playing for the East Coast.

I met Horomia a number of times during my time as the Maori affairs reporter at a number of hui and funerals.

I found him to be a gentleman who would have crowds in raptures when he stood and spoke on the marae. His death has left a big hole in the Labour ranks - one which will be hard to fill.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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