George Skuse has read hundreds of books about the Māori world and has completed courses in Māori medicine, carving and te reo - to name a few.

He also happens to be Pākehā.

The Whangārei man has been interested in Māori culture for "a very long time" and so he's thrown himself into learning what he can.

"I grew up on the East Coast and my brother had a scrub-cutting gang so when I was 14 I went up with the gang.


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"I worked with guys for whom te reo was the first language and they always spoke te reo. So although I didn't speak it myself I was kind of used to that background," he said.

The 70-year-old's first course was in whaikorero (speeches) in Gisborne in the 1980s. He said he questioned whether he would be allowed to go along because he was Pākehā, but he was.

"I expected they would say 'No, you can't do this because you're Pākehā' so I was a bit surprised. But we just had a hoot of the time.

"There were a couple of guys from the Waihīrere concert party, there was a lot of waiata and we saw a lot of the carved houses around Gisborne."

Skuse moved to Whangārei in the late 1980s and in 2010 his partner brought home a flyer for a year-long tikanga marae course. Skuse signed up.

When he completed that course he moved on to Tu Taua, a taiaha course, and when that ended he did a three-year carving course. He has also completed a rongoā (Māori medicine) course, which he said was brilliant.

"Finally I ran out of courses so I started te reo. There was too much other stuff on before I did te reo. So I've been doing that for three or four years now."


Skuse has also read "hundreds" of books about the Māori world. One of the reasons he wanted to learn te reo was so that he could read Sir Apirana Ngata's book Ngā Mōteatea.

"He's from the East Coast and years ago when we were scrub cutting we had a job right next to his marae.

"I've read virtually every Māori book there is - Māori history, Māori language, everything. I started reading way back in the 80s."

Skuse said he is often the only Pākehā student in the courses, but he is always met with a warm welcome.

"It was interesting when I was doing one of the courses one of the young guys came over to me and said 'Matua, why are you doing this?' and it was a good question. It's partly because I worked with guys for whom te reo was their first language, and a more philosophical one is maybe I was Māori in a past life?"