He has headed Treaty negotiations and settlements for 12 iwi in tribal collectives, and chairs a maunga authority, Auckland Council's property arm, a $115 million iwi investment fund and a tribal group that has partnered with a leading developer to build more than 500 new Auckland apartments.
Paul Francis Majurey of Marutūāhu (Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Whanaunga, Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngāti Pāoa), 59, is one of the most powerful, successful Māori lawyers, who, for 36 years, has advanced mana whenua interests, including holding the Crown to Tiriti o Waitangi promises, and heads a number of influential statutory authorities.
The son of a nurse/shearing gang rousie and shearer chooses the spectacular Hotunui inside the Auckland War Memorial Museum as the meeting point, mid-school holidays. That ancestral wharenui built in 1878 is from his iwi and once stood at Pārāwai near Thames.
When asked, Majurey says that "if our tūpuna whare was ever moved, it would be to Thames but we're happy with him here for now as he is just as much at home in central Auckland as in Thames".
He chooses where inside his photo should be taken.
"Here," he says introducing two carved poupou: his direct tūpuna Rautao Pouwharekura of Ngāti Maru and a marakihau (sea taniwha), Ureia. "They are significant historical figures, instrumental in the Marutūāhu iwi becoming tribes of the Tāmaki Isthmus alongside the iwi of Te Waiohua and Ngāti Whātua. Ureia was murdered in the Manukau, as was the father and brother of Rautao at a ridgeline in modern day Meadowbank near St John's College, by sections of Te Waiohua. Rautao led the Marutūāhu tribes in a ruthless revenge campaign against Te Waiohua. However, peace was made between the tribes through an arranged marriage, forging whanaungatanga relations which have remained intact over the centuries." These events are said to have occurred over the 1600s-1700s.
Majurey is a fighter, likened by some to Te Rauparaha, who understood early on the power of the law to bring about transformation, particularly Te Tiriti: he was lead negotiator and chairman of the 13-iwi Tāmaki Collective [2009-2014, settled], and currently chairs the 12-iwi Hauraki Collective and the five-iwi Marutūāhu Collective [settlements awaiting legislation].
He is chairman of the Tūpuna Maunga Authority which has jurisdiction over 14 dormant Auckland volcanoes, chairman of council's property arm Eke Panuku Development Auckland and chairman of the $115m Māori investment fund Te Pūia Tāpapa.
In 2013, he was appointed a board member of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. He was co-chair of Sea Change Tai Timu Tai Pari Marine Spatial Plan Project Steering Group [2013-2017] and is the longest-serving member of the Hauraki Gulf Forum [2000 to now].
He also heads the Ockham-Marutūāhu partnership, developing 541 affordable new units in four projects, worth $300m, many KiwiBuilds, its most recent opening last month in Waterview of the 95-unit Kokihi which has a copper and kauri waharoa [gateway].
A senior law partner since 2009 with Emily Pl law firm Atkins Holm Majurey, he was at Russell McVeagh for 24 years, and is understood to have been approached multiple times to take a place at the bench or enter into national politics.
He came from a working-class upbringing and emphasises that his parents and wider whānau gave him the love and support to pursue educational and professional opportunities, and the desire to move mountains.
His mother was a Kingseat nurse and his father a bushman and shearer. When he was born, his mum wanted a more secure base for the family so his father switched to dairy factory work which meant many moves for the whānau.
The eldest of three children, Majurey initially went to a native school in a dairy factory town until his father was transferred to another dairy factory at Te Rapa so he switched to the school at the former airforce base, now part of The Base where the shopping centre is.
"So a lot of movement, changes between houses, growing up in the country and different dairy factory villages – all warm communities. My dad worked a roster of six days on, one-off so mum made sure we didn't make too much noise when he was having a day off."
It was some years before his parents could afford a deposit on their own home, a Māori Affairs house in Kirikiriroa. Majurey charitably recounts how a sign went up announcing a new Māori house for a back section surrounded by five existing homes: "We were very lucky that our neighbours put up these free walls for us. Ironically my dad is a tohunga of cultivations and was then a senior member of the Waikato Rose Society so we probably had some of the nicer grounds in the neighbourhood."
The Marutūāhu rohe stretches from the western Bay of Plenty in the south to the Mahurangi to the north, and includes the inner and outer Hauraki Gulf islands, "thousands of hectares" but most was lost via land wars confiscations and predatory Crown practices.
"Law was pretty much pre-ordained for me. Like a lot of our people, I grew up on stories from my grandmother, Tira Ngamokamoka, on the land losses our people had suffered. The people of Marutūāhu and Pare Hauraki - as Waitangi Tribunal reports record - are some of the most landless people in the nation, having suffered confiscations from the New Zealand wars in the 1860s, predatory land acquisition policies and public works takings.
"Our rural-to-urban diaspora took place around the time of World War I, not World War II like many other tribes and that had drastic effects on us, especially being forced away from our homelands. When your relationship to the land is rendered asunder by the Crown, it goes to the heart of your identity as a people. Like many tribes, it's about trying to restore your culture, your language, your very being, your self-esteem."
He initially knew only one other student at Auckland University so the country-city transition was tough. High schoolmates went to freezing works and factories but John Tamihere, Annette Sykes, Sarah Reeves, Mark Milroy and Frances Eivers were some of his law school contemporaries. He fondly recalls animated discussions in the library and cafes about pretty much everything, especially politics.
"It was quite hard," he says of university when his background was not from a tertiary education, he was the first in his wider whānau to go to university, and not having been brought up in a professional family setting like many of the students from high-decile schools.
He didn't expect to last long at legal powerhouse Russell McVeagh "having been brought up in the country" but stayed 24 years making partner as a 29-year-old, only leaving in 2009 for his current firm, having worked with many Māori including trusts and rūnanga, given a thorough governance grounding which naturally led to his many statutory body roles today.
The Tūpuna Maunga Authority has removed some exotic tree species, he says, to re-establish the original ngahere and protect the cultural and archaeological fabric of these iconic ancestral landscapes. It spent $100,000 last year on security during Guy Fawkes to protect the maunga from devastating fire damage caused by fireworks, he says. Vehicle damage has also been stopped to protect the maunga.
Asked about his biggest achievement, he cites supporting his four tamariki to help follow their dreams, following the example of his hard-working parents.
"Ultimately it all comes back to whanaungatanga, living connections between children, parents, grandparents, uncles and aunties, and tribal relations."
So to the future: "I'm more a glass three-quarters rather than half-full type. You have to be optimistic with the many challenges our people face. In terms of development as a nation and how this city is reflecting Māori world views and values, the thought that Māori would be a real part of major residential developments, airport hotels, regional infrastructure and the rebuild of Christchurch as examples ... who would have seen that coming in decades past? Where we're heading as a nation and as a people - I'm very fortunate to have been part of that along with many others. Who knows where the next generations are going to take us."