The following article was originally published in the December 2005 Nga Kohinga.
The 2005 Ta Apirana Ngata Memorial lectures, commemorated 100-years since Ta Apirana entered Parliament, at age 31 in 1905.
The organising committee of this year’s lectures felt this significant milestone in the history of one of the most influential and visionary Ngati Porou and indeed Maori leaders required appropriate acknowledgement and chose leadership as the theme in honoring Ta Apirana over two days of memorial lectures.
The first night of lectures was held at Uepohatu Hall with more than 100 people in attendance. The keynote speakers for the evening were Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia, former Silver Ferns captain Waimarama Taumaunu and TVNZ Maori programme general manager Whai Ngata the eldest great-grandchild of Ta Apirana.
Mr Horomia gave an impressive speech on Ta Apirana’s life achievements regarding his tenure in Parliament which lasted 38-years, the longest term of office for any Maori MP.He described Ta Apirana’s early influences and upbringing and the advice of his mentors Paratene Ngata and Ropata Wahawaha to pursue the realm of Pakeha education for the benefit of Ngati Porou and Maori as a whole.
The Minister further described Ta Apirana’s achievements in Parliament as a Liberal MP representing the Eastern Maori electorate and the huge respect his fellow ministers had for him.A constant issue fought for throughout Ta Apirana’s political career involved land development and rates. When Ta Apirana was appointed Minister of Native Affairs in 1928 he set about promoting land development initiatives to reinvigorate Maori communities.
He also promoted the notion of “approximation and not selective equality for Maori, preserving what is best in the Maori culture and benefiting from what is best in Pakeha culture.”The Minister closed by saying . . . “Ta Apirana’s vision with land developments was about the realisation of Maori potential the attainment of Maori success as Maori, today we want the same things”
He left us to contemplate the following:
• What should Maori success look like in the 21st century?
• How do we ensure we walk into the future equipped with the necessary modern tools but still anchored culturally in nga tikanga Maori?
Second speaker Whangara woman Wai Taumaunu a proverbial icon in New Zealand sporting history spoke about leadership from her perspective as a team member of the Silver Ferns from 1981-1991. During this time NZ won the 1987 Netball World Cup and Ms Taumaunu a capable leader herself, captained the Silver Ferns from 1989-1991.
Ms Taumaunu paid tribute to one of the most influential leaders in her sporting career, ex Silver Ferns coach Lois Muir, she described her former coach as a hard task master who would reprimand for the benefit of the individuals and the teams performance, who would bear the brunt of criticism for failures but work twice as hard to improve upon those same failings. Ms Taumaunu reflected that Lois Muir possessed all the qualities she admired in a leader and steered her on the pathway to becoming a leader herself.
The last speaker for the evening Whai Ngata spoke again on the life and times of Ta Apirana. He reported……
“In 1891 a group of 20 former students of Te Aute College met and organised a body called the ‘Association for the Amelioration of the condition of the Maori Race’. It consisted of Te Aute boys, Maori Rangatira, Maori clergymen, Maori MP’s and European sympathizers."
"They were to fight for the suppression of the drink traffic among Maori, the abolition of injurious customs and useless meetings, the spreading and use of sanitary knowledge and the general elevation of Maori life. Pakeke around the country thought they were upstarts, who were placing themselves in the position of judges and dictators."
"After a short while their courage failed, their enthusiasm cooled and the association ceased to exist. At the end of 1896, 5 years after their failed attempt they had another crack at it. They invited past students of Te Aute to a hui in January 1897. The objectives of the hui became known to chiefs and the leading figures in various centres."
"The group of young men wanted a link between students of the school but they also wanted to discuss questions bearing on the Maori race as a whole. They saw that Maori had to identify and fight all those things that come in the vanguard of an aggressive civilization………….alienation of land, misuse of alcohol, bad hygiene and health, bad housing, poor education and a myriad of things that follow in the wake of colonisation…………”
After the speeches a “popcorn opportunity” arose with a photo slideshow and a 45-minute National Film Archives presentation compiled by Huia Kopua which showed “viewing treasures” including Ta Apirana Ngata’s father Ta Apirana Ngata Memorial Lectures Paratene Ngata making crayfish pots, kumara gardens at Waiomatatini, hand games at Whareponga, fishing from the Waiapu and much more.
Day two of the lectures at Hiruharama Marae involved a show case of achievements by Ngati Porou taiohi including an art exhibit of Te Waiu design students, a presentation by Ngata College young enterprise scheme YES business Technomarae and speeches from two of the national - Nga Manu Korero winners. The afternoon concluded in a half hour presentation of highlights from the successful Te Rangitawaea Festival and ‘Nati Award’ winners for 2005.
The evening culminated in the inaugural Ngati Porou taupatupatu (debating) event.The four teams of three orators were overall winning team Apirana Mahuika, Boycie Te Maro and Manuhou Manuel, Victor Walker, Lou Tangaere and Paratene Ngata. Keri Kaa, Tawhiri Dalton-Reedy and Hera MacMinimin. Vapi Kupenga, Hinetu Dell and Hera Gibson. Judges comments expressed the distinctive characteristic of Ngati Porou taupatupatu being the use of humour outwitting your opponent and not so much the argumentative fashion.