The spiritual leader of the Rātana Church, Harerangi Rehimana Meihana, has died. He was 88.
Meihana, who led the Ratana movement for more than 20 years, died early today. He was the seventh tumuaki (president) of the Rātana Church of New Zealand.
His mother Rāwinia Rātana was daughter of the founder of the faith, Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana. The church has around 50,000 followers.
Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson said Meihana's contribution to his people, Labour and the people of New Zealand can not be underestimated.
"For 23 years he has led the Rātana movement and while he was a humble person, he kept his people and his faith at the forefront of what he did.
"He has been a significant leader and had a quiet and respectful way of doing things and his passing cannot be underestimated because Rātana plays a big role in Labour Māori."
Meihana served as tumuaki since 1999 and continued to uphold the teachings and principles of the church as well as leading a faithful membership.
Te Pāti Māori co leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said they were deeply saddened by the passing of Tumaki o Te Haahi Ratana Harerangi Meihana.
"He has served his people with distinction and contributed a lifetime of mahi Te Ao Māori.
"Our aroha and condolences are the whānau at this devastating time.
"Moe mai ra e te rangatira, haera ki tua o Paerau, ki te huinga o te kahurangi."
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