9 Feb 2015

Tributes flow for 'Uncle Api'

7:33 pm on 9 February 2015

Ngati Porou and Maoridom are mourning the loss of a leader, Dr Apirana Mahuika.

Apirana Mahuika

Apirana Mahuika Photo: Twitter / Ngati Porou

He passed away this morning at the age of 80 - surrounded by his whanau - after being ill for a year.

Dr Apirana Tuahae Kaukapakapa Mahuika - affectionately known as Uncle or Papa Api - led a rich life, working as an Anglican minister, teacher, scholar and chair of Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou.

He grew up in Whakawhitira on the east coast and went to Te Aute College in Hawke's Bay.

He was known as a staunch leader, who stood up for the rights for not only Ngati Porou but for all Maori.

Whanau spokesperson Te Rau Kupenga said Dr Mahuika, who was known as Papa Api, laid a foundation for future generations of Ngati Porou.

"He was a leader for his time, particularly for Ngati Porou. He led us through settlements and iwi developments. He was a visionary, but fundamentally he was a staunch advocate for his iwi, for our Reo, and for anything Maori."

But, despite his strong presence, Mr Kupenga said he was far from that for his mokopuna (grandchildren).

"I can say that while from the exterior he was quite tough he was actually a great big marshmallow when it came to his mokopuna."

In a tribute in Te Reo, Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou deputy chair Selwyn Parata cited the proverb, "The totara has fallen in the forest of Tane."

Mr Parata said Uncle Api was the mastermind of many of Ngati Porou's economic developments, including forestry and fisheries - and led the iwi's treaty settlement, which was finalised in 2012.

"His oratory skills, tenacity and single purposefulness were ever-present in the numerous debates over the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Settlement. Uncle Api was uncompromising in his pursuit of Ngati Porou mana motuhake."

'There's just something about him'

National MP and Minister for Education Hekia Parata, Ngati Porou uri, has known Dr Mahuika for her whole life and has studied his work. She said he was a strategic thinker and an influential leader and, at a personal level, was always supportive and encouraging.

Prime Minister John Key said he would not be going to the funeral. Instead, he said, Ms Parata will represent the government in paying tribute to Dr Mahuika.

Climate Change Iwi Leaders Group advisor Chris Karamea Insley, of Te Whanau a Apanui, worked with Apirana Mahuika for 15 years.

He said Mr Mahuika stepped very readily into the world of academia, the world of government and politics, and the world of Maori.

"Some years ago some government people, who would often find themselves in meetings with Uncle Api, would say to me, 'There's just something about him. We don't understand what it is. But when you're in the room with him, you can feel there's something special about him.'"

Further tributes were paid on social media today, including this from former National Party MP Tau Henare:

Bailey Mackey, the producer of television programmes Marae and The GC, added his tribute:

East Coast singer/songwriter Rob Ruha added, "Papa Api ... You don't appreciate what you got 'til it's gone."

Dr Mahuika will lie in state until his funeral service at Rahui Marae in Tikitiki, north of Ruatoria, at 11am this Thursday, and will be buried at his whanau urupa at Kaitaha.

He is survived by wife Karin, sons Mataanuku and Hamana, and his four mokopuna.