Ranginui Walker tangi: 'His pen was his taiaha'

6:23 pm on 3 March 2016

Hone Morris, a lecturer at Massey University, told listeners at the tangi of Dr Ranginui Walker today: "Ranginui, your pen was your taiaha".

Mr Morris was representing Massey University. An academic colleague at Massey, also attending the tangi today, was author and longtime friend of Dr Walker's, Professor Paul Spoonley who wrote Dr Walker's biography, Mata Toa.

Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavel

Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavel Photo: RNZ / Mihingarangi Forbes

Prof. Spoonley recalls his friend as a hardworker.

"He was very, very focused on what was happening in the Māori world - Te Ao Māori, Te Ao Pākehā and also what the state was doing. I think 24 hours a day and boy did he have a sharp, clear mind."

A common theme in the speeches today was Dr Walker's Listener columns.

Prof. Spoonley said he once wrote a letter to the editor in defence of an article penned by Dr Walker. Out of the blue he said Dr Walker arrived on his doorstep.

"He said, 'you wrote a letter to the Listener' I said; 'Yes I did'. And then he said to me, he said; 'Pakeha need to attack the racists in their midst' and I said 'OK'.

"So that was a message I got and Ranginui was not short in telling you his opinion."

Prof Spoonley spent many years with both Dr Walker and Deidre Walker he was a recipient of her tea and scones as he sat writing Mata Toa.

Paul Spoonley

Paul Spoonley Photo: RNZ / Mihingarangi Forbes

"So Ranignui needed her. She was great in terms of providing support for him and guidance for him, and she could be more radical than Ranginui at times. They were a great team and I always thought of them as a team."

The Wharenui at Orakei was full again today as hundreds more mourners paid their respects to Dr Walker.

They came again in their hundreds Te Kohanga Reo, Te Ataarangi, Nga Whare Wananga.

Pem Bird from Te Kura o Tawhiuau said Dr Walker had set the example in education while Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell, a student under Dr Walker, said the lessons were lifechanging.

"Because for the first time you could actually hear from someone who was in it for the first time, writing about it, talking about the issues that faced our people at the time; which included - as we stand here at Takaparawhau - the whole background towards what happened here, issues around the confiscations. I mean those were all new issues for people like me coming out of school"

Jane Kelsey says Dr Walker was a generous educationalist who could be gentle and fierce.

"He never had any quarms about speaking truth to power, whether it was inside the university or whether it was the country or internationally."

Groups are continuing to arrive at the gate of Orakei and proceedings will continue until sunset.

Tomorrow he will be farewelled at a church service at Orakei Marae led by Bishop Kito Pikaahu and Rev Hirini Kaa before he will be cremated in a private ceremony.

Jane Kelsey

Jane Kelsey Photo: RNZ / Mihingarangi Forbes