Historian 'Koro' Dewes dies age 80

Respected Ngati Porou academic and historian Te Kapunga Matemoana, or "Koro" Dewes, has passed away at the age of 80.

He died from cancer yesterday in Te Araroa.

Mr Dewes was a pioneering educationalist in the 1960s and 70s.

He started in adult education at Auckland University and then laid the foundations for Victoria University's Maori studies department, before returning home to the East Coast and helping form Te Runanga o Ngati Porou.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples paid tribute to his "outstanding scholarship, the formidable intellect and extraordinary oratory".

Mr Dewes was a tohunga, whose command of oral history and literature and prowess in debate was awe-inspiring, Dr Sharples said.

"Koro was a partisan rather than a diplomat, who inspired commitment and dedication to Maori language issues among a generation of younger leaders, including his children and grandchildren, who have helped to transform the outlook for te reo Maori."

In 2004 Mr Dews was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Literature by Victoria University of Wellington, where he had taught for many years.

He is survived by three children and a number of grandchildren.

Mr Dewes' body is lying in state at Hinerupe Marae in Te Araroa and his funeral will be held on Friday.