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Sir Archie Taiaroa

Towards the end of Sir Archie Taiaroa‘s tangi at Taumarunui last year one of his work colleagues - who just happened to have Sir Archie's cell phone - thought one of the speakers was going an a little too long, so she sent him a text saying "kia tere".

The speaker - one of Sir Archie's whanaunga and well-known to the sender - was naturally taken aback if not a little stunned to be getting a text from Archie.

Peter Douglas the CEO of Te Ohu Kaimoana who worked closely with Sir Archie says, "He would have loved it."

Sir Archie John Te Atawhai Taiaroa a much loved and respected kaumatua and leader ofthe Whanganui people, died in September last year. He was 73.

Sir Archie will probably be most remembered for his work at Te Ohu Kaimoana (TOKM), which he chaired for five years. and was a board member of since 1993; but his working life encompassed much more than that.

He was born in 1937 at Tawata beside the Whanganui River. He worked for the Department of Maori Affairs and the Iwi Transition Agency - both predecessors of Te Puni Kokiri and took a leadership role in the long running battle of the Whanganui river iwi to reclaim their ownership of the river.

ln the early days of The Waitangi Fisheries Commission Sir Archie acted as a peacemaker trying to reach amicable solutions as iwi manoeuvred to divide up the $700 million commercial fisheries assets. He spear-headed Maori claims to freshwater fisheries and was a driver behind the setting up of an annual million-dollar fund to help tertiary students study for positions in the fishing industry. He also urged TOKM to link up with other indigenous peoples to champion their rights.

He fulfilled his civic duties as a former Taumarunui Borough councillor and deputy-mayor.

He served on the Maori Congress and was an advisor to the late Maori Queen Dame Te Atairangikaahu.

Tributes flowed in from around the motu. Prime Minister -John Key - had this to say. "Sir Archie's leadership was inspirational. He was a role-model to young Maori and hugely influential in Maoridom.

This is a tragic loss, not just for Whanganui, not just for Maori but for all New Zealanders.

Sir Archie stood tall and proud and taught others to do the same."

The Governor-General attended the tangi in Taumarunui. In 2009 he had travelled to Haro Paora College - Sir Archie's old school - to confer the Knighthood. Typically he had requested that the investiture take place there because he regarded it as being, "for our mokopuna".

Ngahiwi Tomoana from Ngati Kahungunu who succeeded Sir Archie as chair of TOKM when he voluntarily stepped down in late 2009 said of him, "Anyone who knew Archie would understand that his leadership inspired thousands of Maori. His influence was unrivalled. His passing comes as a huge loss not only to Maori but to Aotearoa.”

According to Peter Douglas, "His greatest quality was that he didn't have ego problems. He had a wonderfui way with people, he treated everyone like they were important."

Sir Archie is survived by his wife Martha Lady Taiaroa, their son Rakei and three mokopuna.

His life began at Tawata and that is where he returned to be buried.

Archie Taiaroa was born 3 January 1937; died 21 September 2010

Source: Kokiri Feb, 2011 edition,
the monthly magazine of Te Puni Kokiri


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