Mourners farewell Sir Paul Reeves at tangi

Last updated 16:43 15/08/2011
Lyle McMahon

Former All Black Michael Jones was among those who attended the first day of Sir Paul Reeves' tangi in Auckland on Monday.

sir paul reeves
PASSED AWAY: Sir Paul Reeves.
Sir Paul Reeves tangi
PETER MEECHAM/Auckland Now Zoom
Mourners carry in the coffin at the tangi for Sir Paul Reeves.

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Sir Paul Reeves has been farewelled to the sound of waiata, haka and drums.

More than 350 people braved snow and hail to fill the Holy Sepulchre Church in Khyber Pass for his tangi today.

His female relatives, including Lady Beverley Reeves, surrounded his casket at the front of the Anglican Church in Khyber Pass.

Waiata and haka sounded through the wooden church and elders passionately spoke of the former Governor-General.

Wellington-born Sir Paul, the first Maori Governor-General and a former Anglican Archbishop of New Zealand, died yesterday morning, aged 78.

A black hearse carrying the body of the former Governor-General arrived at the church about 2pm.

Heavy hail and snow flurries began just as a few hundred mourners walked with the casket in through the doors.

Among the gathered whanau today were many of Sir Paul's family from Taranaki.

Elder women, dressed in long black coats and holding small flowers, said Sir Paul worked his whole life for the people and had many great achievements.

A state funeral for Sir Paul will take place on Thursday.

Prime Minister John Key said he, ministers and MPs from across the political spectrum will attend the funeral, to be held at 11am at the Anglican Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell.

On Thursday, Sir Paul's cortege will travel from the Holy Sepulchre Church to the Holy Trinity Cathedral through part of the Auckland Domain, Key said.

Defence personnel will escort the hearse for the final part of the procession from the edge of the Domain along the few blocks to the Cathedral Forecourt entrance.

He has been remembered as a humble man who united people, who was not afraid to speak up for social justice, and as a natural leader.

Key has said New Zealand had lost one of its greatest statesmen.

"We are indebted. New Zealand is a poorer place for his passing."

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has also paid tribute to Sir Paul, who died less than a month after announcing he was stepping back from public life to battle cancer.

Clark said she had known Sir Paul since she was a young government minister in the late 1980s. "Sir Paul was a great New Zealander who served his country, his church and his iwi with great distinction throughout his life."

Taranaki Bishop Philip Richardson said Sir Paul died peacefully in the presence of his family. "He died surrounded by their love, very beautifully supported by his whanau."

He described a man who held an unwavering conviction to make the world a better place, right up until his last hours.

"I don't think we have seen his equal throughout our history."

Sir Paul was never afraid to speak out against injustice and never set himself above anyone else, Bishop Richardson said.

Sir Paul is survived by his wife, Beverley, Lady Reeves, his three daughters, Sarah, Bridget and Jane, and six grandchildren.

AT A GLANCE

Born in Wellington in 1932, educated at Wellington College, Victoria University, St John's Theological College, Auckland, and St Peter's College, Oxford.

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He was made Bishop of Waiapu in 1971, Bishop of Auckland in 1979 and Primate and Archbishop of New Zealand in 1980.

Chairman of the Environmental Council from 1974 to 1976 and president of the National Council of Churches 1984-85.

Governor-General from 1985 to 1990 - the first Maori and the first cleric to fill that position. Anglican Observer at the United Nations for three years.

Deputy leader Commonwealth Observer group to South Africa, Nelson Mandela Trust chairman. Chaired the Fiji Constitution Review Commission 1995 to 1997.

Commonwealth election observer in Ghana and South Africa.

Admitted to the Order of New Zealand in 2007.

This followed being made a Knight Bachelor and Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1985 and a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victoria Order in 1986.

Awarded the Queen's Service Order for public services in 1990. Inaugural chair of Toi Te Taiao: Bioethics Council in 2002. Chancellor of AUT University from February 2005.

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