Ngāti Hine in mourning after death of Waitangi stalwart, Pita Paraone

1:55 pm on 26 August 2019

Northland's Ngāti Hine people are in mourning, following the death of well-known kaumātua, and Waitangi stalwart, Pita Paraone.

Pita Paraone

Pita Paraone. Photo: NZFirst

Mr Paraone died at 2am this morning in Auckland Hospital.

A whānau member said the much-loved elder had heart surgery about three weeks ago, and failed to recover.

Mr Paraone was known for his quiet but firm diplomacy and was for many years the programme organiser for Waitangi Day, and the chair of the Waitangi National Trust.

He served for 22 years on the trust, eight of them as chair.

He was instrumental in moving the annual protest-ridden pōwhiri for the Crown from the Waitangi marae to the Treaty Grounds two years ago.

Mr Paraone had a long career in the public service, and was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit services to Māori and the community in 1997, before entering Parliament as a New Zealand First List MP in 2002.

He served a total of three terms, losing his seat in the last election.

Mr Paraone is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren.

His family are now preparing to bring him north for the hui mate at his home marae in Mōtatau in the Bay of Islands.

Paying tribute

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said he was deeply saddened by the death of Mr Paraone.

Mr Peters described Mr Paraone as a NZ First stalwart and sent his condolences to his wife, Elva, his three children and wider whānau.

"Northland, and the people of New Zealand, have lost a man who cared deeply for his people and country, and worked endlessly to make New Zealand a better country for us all," Mr Peters said.

Minister of Local Government and Māori Development, Nanaia Mahuta, said Mr Paraone would be mourned as a loyal and faithful leader.

He had held a number of leadership roles in Māori Affairs at Te Puni Kokiri, the Māori Trustee, the Māori Language Commission and more recently the Local Government Commission, Ms Mahuta said.

"I will miss his cheerful and solid contribution after he was appointed chair of the commission this year ... he was a great inspiration; someone you could rely on and a stalwart for ensuring that outcomes for Māori contributed to the betterment of new Zealand."

On Twitter, former MP Tau Henare said there had "never been a more decent human being" and Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard described the Ngāti Hine elder as a thorough gentleman.

NZ First MP Shane Jones has remembered Mr Paraone as a diplomatic and unflappble leader who did not seek frontline glory.

Mr Jones described today as a sad day for Aotearoa and said the likes of Mr Paraone should never be forgotten.

"He has been such an important personality around the north for so long. People realise he not only was conciliatory and very diplomatic but he carried with him his own mana.

He was calm in the face of adversity and he really did work quietly, very effectively without courting huge fanfare."

Mr Jones recounted Mr Paraone's leading role in moving the main pōwhiri from Te Tii Marae to the upper grounds.

"I recall him inviting the late Kingi Taurua to a hapū meeting and informing him that in the future there will be no more fireworks at lower Te Tii events and they were going to be moved to Whare Rūnanga so that the dignity and mana associated with Waitangi was restored. Not an easy thing to do or say or indeed to excecute but through his role at Waitangi and obviously his own lineage in Ngāti Hine he was able to deliver on that outcome and that should not be forgotten."

He says he had a long and visible career in Māori affairs while also being visible on the ground at his marae.

"He played a great role in supporting leaders of the 60's and 70's in particular Sir James Henare and his father, Tamaki Paraone, who was a very famous member of the Māori battalion - so his deeds follow a tradition of service."

With his political pōtae on, Mr Jones talked of his role in NZ First.

"He did not seek frontline glory, he was willing to ensure things were executed well behind the scenes and people like Pita need to be acknowledged. It's the Pita Paraones who are the glue that keep together the membership, the direction and provide support to the leader, Winston," he said.