Anihera Zhou Black says her marriage disintegrated amid alcoholism and infidelity.

But it also sowed the seeds which would blow apart the reputation of her former husband Te Awanuiārangi Black.

There have been more than 363,000 people now who have seen Zhou Black's harrowing mihi in which she claimed Black was a paedophile.

She has now spoken of the path out of her marriage and what led to the allegations about Black, a respected community leader in the Bay of Plenty with an eye on Parliament as a representative of the Maori Party.

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He died aged 48 in 2016.

It follows a meeting between Zhou Black and police although no investigation has been started and police have yet to take formal statements.

Zhou Black, 49, met her future husband aged 15 and they started life together just three years later, going to train as teachers before going to the Bay of Plenty.

In the early days, they taught together but - as their children began coming - Zhou Black spent less time in the classroom.

They would go on to have five children over a period which, Zhou Black says, saw her focused on their upbringing as her husband concentrated on building his career.

In hindsight, says Zhou Black, the darkness to come was there in the early days.

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She discovered years later Black had also fathered other children. She also says she discovered Black had formed a relationship - as an adult - with one of the many children who had passed through their home.

"Awa was grooming," she says. "You know the grooming starts young."

Life was centred in the Bay of Plenty, in Welcome Bay. There was a year at Port Waikato, an eight-year period when they lived in Otaki, then the whanau returned to Tauranga in 2009.

Over that time, Black served as a commissioner at the Māori Language Commission, lecturer at Te Wānanga o Raukawa and helped write the first monolingual Māori language dictionary. Later, Black become the regional chairman for the iwi leaders' group, a treaty negotiator for Te Au Maaro o Ngāti Pūkenga and a regional councillor.

The return to the Bay of Plenty brought a time of pressure for the couple. Zhou Black, looking back on her marriage, says "I was groomed by him, conditioned to be the public figure wife he wanted".

She points to 2012 as the time when she first learned Black had what she views as a secret life.

She had seen text messages and quizzed him over the identity of the woman who was professing love.

Zhou Back tracked the woman down and discovered she was a prostitute.

He then disclosed another encounter from early in their marriage.

"There was a prostitute at the beginning he admitted to.

"I was at a point of confusion and disbelief. I couldn't put things together clearly at that point - not a wife who has admired and put him on a pedestal. Intuition tells you (there is more) but conditioning is hard to move from."

There was also an admission, she said, he had used "pre-teen porn". She believed he was disclosing the minimum he could to meet her need for answers.

Later she said she would find there were other women. "At least a dozen." And more beyond that, too, but having found so much betrayal any evidence of more seemed irrelevant.

She left in 2012 on an epic 10-month, 10,000 nautical mile journey by waka from New Zealand to Rapa Nui, Tahiti and Rarotonga.

It was during this time Zhou Black said she "found my voice". "I was a little more ''me'."

Her return to New Zealand brought her back to him. Whatever their time apart was, it hadn't crystallised into a formal separation. "We had not defined what that looked like when I left because things were so awful."

Encouraged to try again, they did. Zhou Black said Black's alcohol abuse was the one aspect of his life she wanted addressed.

"He was an alcoholic for at least a good 15 years before the end of the relationship. He started hiding his vodka in a sipper bottle or Pump bottle. He started doing that before public meetings."

She pushed back but "the more I found my voice, the more violent he became with his voice".

There were physical aspects to the relationship that were abusive, she says. He shoved her once, she says, and backed her up against a wall, punching it hard enough to create a hole.

They separated, this time for good. Zhou Black went to Women's Refuge and, when talking about leaving, was told: "It's called Stockholm Syndrome."

In hindsight, Anihera Zhou Black says the darkness to come was there in the early days. Photo / via Facebook
In hindsight, Anihera Zhou Black says the darkness to come was there in the early days. Photo / via Facebook

There was some respite at his deathbed, she says. Organ failure, said reports at the time, but "suicide by alcohol" was how Zhou Black saw it. She believed he knew his multiple lives were about to merge.

She went to the hospital to support her children but when she arrived, it was clear Black wasn't leaving the hospital alive.

"You have all these other emotions and you see the man in his rawest. And there is still love there, love for who I thought he was.

"So when he died, I told him I loved him and I told him to be free and to fly high. I wanted to set him free knowing he was loved. You can love the man but not love the behaviour."

Black's dear friend Pouroto Ngaropo estimated 9000 people attended the tangi.

The tangi, for Zhou Black, saw her learn aspects of her husband's life of which she was unaware. Childhood friends told her he had experienced sexual abuse as a boy.

There was also the disclosure - including time, date and details - of abuse by a man who claimed Black preyed upon him aged 8.

Zhou Black's sister Piiata Tiakitai-Turi told the NZ Herald she has also heard the claim.

Tiakitai-Turi: "It warped her whole sense of being. It reached her to her soul. That was a huge force behind why she did (the Facebook Live post).

As for other victims, Zhou Black won't discuss detail. She says victims do not yet feel comfortable and supported about coming forward.

"We are not on anyone's time frame, except the victims," says Tiakitai-Turi.

The question was then raised whether Black deserved an unveiling.

"It just felt like we would all be living a lie. Keeping the secret. It would have been a lie and would have been perpetuated through history."

Ngaropo has been in anguish since Zhou Black's Facebook Live post scrolled through his feed on Saturday.

Black was his best friend and as he listened, he cried.

And there was confusion. Just a few weeks ago, Ngaropo said he sat with Zhou Black and children for dinner and they talked about the upcoming unveiling.

Zhou Black had talked through designs - three rocks representing Black's iwi roots in Otaki, Taranaki and Tauranga with a weapon to the fore, for his skill at arms.

He will not challenge Zhou Black's account. Ngaropo said he does not want conflict with a family he saw as a wider part of his own.

He knew Black since he was 12, lived with him as a teenager at school and teachers' training college and is godfather to one of their children. The bonds go deep.

"But I never saw any indication at all of paedophilia. Awa had a desire to hand his knowledge on to children. He saw them as the future. That's why he wanted to become a teacher."

Ngaropo described Black as someone who was always driven, focused on discovering what being Maori meant at a time when the culture was being embraced and te reo revived.

They spoke te reo at their home and - before a night out clubbing - would wait from Black to lead a karakia.

Zhou Black was also at teachers' college with the young men, although Black already knew her.

"Awa was really shy but he really admired Ani. I had to ask her, 'could you come and take Awa for a date'. That was the beginning of bringing them together."

They were admired as a couple - Ngaropo said he saw them as a model marriage but knows nothing of how it fell apart.

Black led a private life, he said, and compartmentalised aspects of it.

"Did he have different lives? Yes. There was a time and place for friends, a time and place for tribes, a time and a place as a politician.

"I didn't know anything about imperfections in their marriage. These things were personal to him.

"The pressure of expectation of the family over time ... if you don't spend quality time with family and trying to do something for everyone else, that can create a lot of strain in a relationship."

Likewise, he said he knows nothing of claims of infidelity.

"All marriages have challenges. All marriages, at times, do not work."

Black would talk to Ngaropo of being under pressure and in demand, and believed that led to alcohol as an escape.

"He gave so much of himself for everybody else. The only way he could cope would be drinking at that time."

Ngaropo then took a minute, a deep breath and explained these were all issues so difficult to talk about, particularly for a friend so loved.

"He's dead. He can't speak for himself now."