Whanganui iwi activist dies

8:24 pm on 12 October 2015

The people of the Whanganui River are mourning the death of iwi rights campaigner Piripi Haami, who was 64.

A protest group including Ken Mair and Piripi Haami entered Television New Zealand in 1995 to call for more representation of Māori news.

A protest group including Ken Mair and Piripi Haami entered Television New Zealand in 1995 to increase awareness of Māori issues. Photo: NZ On Screen / TVNZ

Mr Haami died on Sunday after being unwell for the past four years.

The Whanganui iwi descendant was part of a protest group with Ken Mair in 1995. The group entered Television New Zealand on 2 January 1995 in an attempt to increase coverage of Māori issues and caused One Network News to be 10 minutes late to air.

Watch an archived copy of the news broadcast on 2 January 1995

Despite that incident, Mr Haami was well regarded by people in his iwi.

His cousin Che Wilson, a former Ngāti Rangi chairman, said he played an important role in the iwi beyond his political activism.

"He was a key person involved in the Hui Aranga (Māori Catholic Easter Gathering) and, at any marae through the Whanganui rohe, he would be there supporting - whether it was cooking, cleaning or looking after the urupā (cemetery)," he said.

"The other key memory was his role in the Tira Hoe Waka (Whanganui River Iwi Pilgrimage). Piripi always had a leadership role. He would often challenge the way things were done because that was in his nature."

Mr Wilson said everyone who went on the Tira Hoe Waka while Mr Haami was one of the leaders would remember it because of him.

Protester for Māori rights

Mr Wilson said Mr Haami was a great role model.

"He would continually stand up and say 'enough is enough'. And so, both service and sacrifice are key memories of Piripi for me - whether it was him going in with Ken Mair to take over One News, or protesting at the Partington art auction.

"I remember him being so proud when we (Ngāti Rangi) made a stance at the bottom of the Mountain Road in Ohakune to stand up for key things we believed in, for the protection of our tupuna maunga (ancestral mountain).

Mr Wilson said Mr Haami's family eventually started to take similar stances to him in political activism campaigning for iwi rights.