Chief’s son helped Pakeha, Maori work together

LEADING FIGURE: As well as being a key figure of Ngati Tuwharetoa, Timi te Heuheu’s life work was as a bridge-builder between Maori and Pakeha.
LEADING FIGURE: As well as being a key figure of Ngati Tuwharetoa, Timi te Heuheu’s life work was as a bridge-builder between Maori and Pakeha.

Timoti Morehu te Heuheu, Ngati Tuwharetoa leader:

b King Country, January 24, 1944,

m Georgina Manunui 2s;

died Hamilton, July 12, 2012, aged 68.

Timi Te Heuheu was the glue that held the influential Ngati Tuwharetoa iwi together.

He was a long-standing member of the Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board and deeply conscious of the role history had visited upon him as a son of paramount chief, the late Sir Hepi te Heuheu, and his wife, Lady Pauline.

He was a leading figure at every major hui and tangi in Maoridom during the past two decades. In latter years, he supported his brother, paramount chief Sir Tumu te Heuheu, in organising meetings to present a unified Tuwharetoa perspective.

During the past decade, in particular, he was the tribe's key behind-the-scenes man in helping pull factions together during the tumultuous foreshore and seabed debate and the landmark Central North Island Treelords settlement.

The Treelords deal involved many major iwi competing for massive forestry assets. He played a major role in helping to resolve inter-iwi tensions and disagreements via negotiations between the competing, sometimes acrimonious, parties.

Away from the negotiating table his life's work was largely one of a support role, in particular for his wife, former National MP and Cabinet minister Georgina te Heuheu, and Sir Tumu.

Maori Party co-leaders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia said his job as a long-standing member of the Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board was to map out future economic and cultural strategic directions for the iwi.

His influence within Maoridom extended far beyond the Waihi Marae, on the southwestern shores of Lake Taupo, where he was buried on Monday.

He was a low-key, but powerful figure in the iwi leaders group which met on a regular basis in recent years with prime ministers Helen Clark and John Key and finance ministers Sir Michael Cullen and Bill English.

At no time, however, did this humble man, who lived his latter years in Tokoroa, ever seek to usurp Sir Tumu's role within the tribe.

''If Tumu gets punched on the nose, then we all bleed,'' he would tell close associates.

Mr te Heuheu knew his place in modern New Zealand history as a key member of a tribe associated with the gifting of the mountain peaks of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu by Horonuku (te Heuheu Tukino IV) in the 1880s.

He was groomed from an early age to assume his role as a leading member of the family dynasty.

He attended Silverstream College in Upper Hutt from 1958 to 1962, where he was a prefect and a member of the First XV in his final year.

After leaving school, he travelled to the United States, where he studied for a year.

He returned to the central North Island as a young man equally at home with people from ''The Bronx'' or people from ''The Castle'' and embarked upon his life's work as a bridge-builder within Maoridom and between Maori and Pakeha.

Those fortunate enough to observe him closely while he attended an Easter hui at the Motukarara Racecourse on Banks Peninsula more than 50 years ago knew they were in the presence of a prince. His old Silverstream College schoolmates also knew this well, for they addressed their newsletters to him over the years as ''Prince Sir Timoti te Heuheu''.

From an early age, he was one of those rare individuals who had a way of making everyone he met, Maori or Pakeha, believe they were a king or a queen.

He was loyal to his immediate family and cousins - cousins like the late John Mariu who also went to Silverstream College.

Mr te Heuheu and Mr Mariu would refer to each other as ''phone numbers'' - a play on the Maori word ''whanaunga''. For many years his phone number was 021 maunga (mountain).

In Wellington, as a young man he lived for a while in a house in Oriental Bay owned by Maria Alebardi, who ran the then St George Billiard saloon in Willis St.

Relations between Tuwharetoa and Ngati Rangi on the southern slopes of Mt Ruapehu have not always been harmonious. But Ngati Rangi Trust executive manager Che Wilson and his people were among the first on the scene at the Waihi Marae when news of Mr te Heuheu's death came through.

Mr Wilson spoke for many when he said: ''He was a bridge for our relationship with Tuwharetoa. He was a bridge for all Maori irrespective of the issue. He opened so many doors for young Maori. At a personal level I will always be grateful to him for that.''

Mr te Heuheu was a product of his parents' humility and their understanding of their role in the Maori world.
He was a balanced person, a gentleman and a gentle man, always well dressed with his distinctive hats, elegant and modest.

He was raised to be politically blue as his father was a key member of the National Party. He was a lifelong close friend of NZ First leader Winston Peters. The two men knew each other from early days together in The Young Nats.

He was also particularly close to Tainui leader Tuku Morgan.

Another great mate from his early Taumarunui days was an architect of the Maori fisheries settlement, Sir Archie Taiaroa.

It is no coincidence that when he attended Sir Archie's funeral at Taumarunui in 2010, Mr te Heuheu was dressed in a morning suit fit for a function at Buckingham Palace. He was buried in the same suit on Monday.
Mr te Heuheu kept a low profile in Tokoroa. He cared about the Chiefs rugby performances, and loved music including waiata, light opera and country music.

Earlier this year a group of friends got together and decided to organise a Government House honour for Mr te Heuheu.

In his response letter to the Honours Secretariat in Wellington Mr te Heuheu suggested he was both deeply humbled and honoured to be considered for such an honour. But he declined on the grounds he would possibly not be round long enough to make the trip to Government House.

He did, however, qualify his response to friends by saying, should he come up with a quick cure for cancer, he would of course be very grateful if those championing his cause for a gong might revisit their quest to give him an award.

The Dominion Post