Colin Bidois: Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit

A man whose unflinching dedication to strengthen Maoridom included leading the return of Mauao to tribal ownership has been made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Colin Bidois, 86, fulfilled the expectations of leadership laid on his shoulders relatively late in life when he returned to his turangawaewae after 57 years spent living away from Tauranga.

Etched in his memory soon after he returned to his Te Puna-based hapu, Pirirakau, were the words of the late Tipi Faulkner.

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''You have been away for a long time, you have not done your ahi kaa. Now we will see what you are made of.''

Bidois accepted the challenge to keep the home fires warm, and never looked back.

His years of working for the Maori Affairs Department, the timber industry and three terms as a Manukau City councillor provided the launching pad for a rapid rise in responsibilities centred around his chairmanship of Ngati Ranginui Iwi and leading Pirirakau's Treaty settlement negotiating team.

Under his leadership from 1995 to 2005, Ngati Ranginui improved the delivery of social and health services to its people.

Bidois also represented his iwi in the three years of negotiations with the Government that led to the historic carving up of fishing quota among New Zealand iwi. Benefits were returned to the iwi through marae and education grants.

He said it was part of the mosaic that had strengthened the whole of Maoridom and brought some redress for the wrongful taking of land after the battles of Gate Pa and Te Ranga.

The culmination of Ngati Ranginui's Treaty negotiations, the Deed of Settlement in 2012, was a pivotal part of this mosaic.

Bidois said there was a certain amount of delight at the honour.

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''But I realise that many people are behind what I achieved. It bounces back to them.''

He spent the first four years of his childhood living in a rented cottage in Elizabeth St when his father, Hekenui, had a Depression-era job working on the Faulkner harbour ferries.

Their fortunes improved when Hekenui did a crash course training to be a police officer and was appointed to a sole-charge station in the Eastern Bay town of Te Whaiti.

It marked the start of 57 years living away from Tauranga for Bidois, including grabbing headlines when he wore a Roman toga to his inaugural meeting of the Manukau City Council because the debating chamber looked like Rome's Colosseum.

He befriended Winston Peters and provided a vital sounding board when the aspiring politician ran for National in the Auckland seat of Hunua in 1978 against Malcolm Douglas, the brother of Roger (Rogernomics) Douglas.

Douglas won but Peters spotted something amiss in the process. After consulting with Bidois on his suspicions, he challenged the result and won an election petition in the High Court, overturning the election night result.

Bidois supported New Zealand First when Peters established the party prior to the 1993 election but after disagreeing with some policies switched his allegiance to the Maori Party.

Bidois returned to Tauranga at the age of 61 in 1992 and immersed himself in tribal and hapu issues. He was instrumental in establishing Runanganui O Tauranga Moana - a council of four iwi including Waitaha whose main task was to negotiate with the Crown and the council to return Mauao to iwi ownership.

He said it took seven years to negotiate a clean settlement for Mauao, one without the tags that had beset other returns of sacred mountains around New Zealand.

''It was a pleasing note to go out on ... it's been an interesting life,'' he said.

Colin Bidois' other achievements
- Ngati Ranginui Iwi CEO for three years.
- Iwi representative 2005-15 on Tauranga City Council Tangata Whenua Collective.
- Crown appointee for six years on the Bay of Plenty District Health Board.
- Chaired Tauranga Police Liaison Committee for four years.