The primary teachers' union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, has named Te Tai Tokerau Principals' Association president (and Hora Hora Primary School principal) Pat Newman as an Honorary Fellow — union activism.

Mr Newman had had roles at the union's branch, district council and national leadership levels over four decades, according to the citation. He had been a branch secretary, annual conference delegate, Principal Council representative and a negotiator for primary principals. He joined NZEI Te Riu Roa as a student in 1973 and had been active ever since, and was outspoken, passionate and innovative.

"He has always been committed to kaupapa Māori, and has been a Te Akatea Māori Principals' Association member since 1996. He has also been involved in the Māori Achievement Collaborative (MAC) since its inception in 2014," it added.

"Pat has been a national executive member of the NZ Principals' Federation for 12 years, two them as national president. His work over a period of years on the Teachers' Council and on their Complaints Assessment Committee have demonstrated his endeavours to work tirelessly for a teaching profession we could all be proud of. His recent re-election to the NZ Teachers' Council shows how much he is respected within education circles."

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Mr Newman began his teaching career at Opotiki Primary, followed by two years at Pakuranga Intermediate and Bay of Islands Intermediate in 1979. His first principal's post was at Tutamoe in 1982. He arrived at Hora Hora, where he planned to stay for five years, in 1999.

"There was always something in my mind to do at school here and you couldn't go until you'd finished it. Bit like why I haven't retired, there's still stuff to do," he said. And he had courted controversy from the start.

"I'd always been a person who never knew when to shut up. I was the editor of the school magazine of my high school and managed to get it banned twice because I refused to retract stories," he added, while much of the credit for his career was owed to his parents. Both left school at 12, his mother, who was orphaned at 9, being needed at home, while his father worked two jobs.

"I am who I am because of them. They instilled in all of us the fact that you had a responsibility to society greater than just looking after yourself," he said.