Obituary: Whatumoana Paki

By Yvonne Tahana

Whatumoana Paki, the husband of the late Maori Queen, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Whatumoana Paki, the husband of the late Maori Queen, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Whatumoana Paki, who died Thursday, was a man who was a steadying, loving and affectionate Kingitanga presence - especially to the woman he adored, the late Maori Queen, Te Atairangikaahu.

Mr Paki, Dame Te Ata's husband and King Tuheitia's father, was born in Huntly to Wetere and Francis Paki. He was of Ngati Whawhakia and Te Aupouri descent.

A coalminer and farmer, in his younger years he was known as one of the main maintenance men for marae along the Waikato River.

By the 1950s, his sweetheart was Piki Mahuta - the heir apparent to the Kingitanga throne. They married in 1952 and had seven children: Heeni Wharemaru, Kiri Tokia Ete Tomairangi, Tuheitia, Maharaia, Mihikiteao, Kiki and Te Manawanui.

In 1966, when King Koroki died, Mrs Paki became Te Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu, the Maori Queen. She was created a dame in later years.

Professor Timoti Karetu described Whatumoana Paki as self-effacing and humble.

"He was there for whatever she needed. I don't think the job of consort is an easy one - she was the one who had all the recognition but she was all the greater because he was there."

Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi got to know Mr Paki - and Dame Te Ata - through their national kohanga reo efforts over the past 30 years.

She remembered Mr Paki telling her about a Tainui kaumatua who made it clear his role meant he had to be a "step behind" Dame Te Ata.

"He shared with me that a kaumatua told him, 'Just remember that you must leave all the statements to her.' For a man who had a very strong mind that can't have been easy. Gosh, I know some men who wouldn't have done that for anything. But he did it with panache and he was a tower of strength behind Dame Te Ata."

Dame Te Ata died in 2006. Dame Iritana said the time since had been difficult for Mr Paki, who continued to live in the Waahi Pa home he helped to build near Huntly.

"Those two did everything together ... She never went anywhere without him and they were so affectionate together - it's not easy."

Waikato-Tainui chief executive Tuku Morgan said Mr Paki's death meant the loss of another link to past leaders such as Henare Tuwhangai, Dr Pei Te Hurinui Jones and others.

Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae, Prime Minister John Key and Pacific royalty are expected to pay their respects this weekend before Mr Paki is buried on Monday on Taupiri Mountain.

- NZ Herald

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