Kaumatua a champion of Maori

'We can talk over a bottle of beer'

BLANTON SMITH
Last updated 05:00 02/06/2014
Dr Huirangi Waikerepuru
CHARLOTTE CURD/FAIRFAX MEDIA
HONOURED: Taranaki's esteemed kaumatua, Dr Huirangi Waikerepuru.

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Having breakfast in a police cell followed by lunch with the governor general is one of many stories Dr Huirangi Eruera Waikerepuru tells.

The man who was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit today said his run-in with police was a misunderstanding.

"It came out of an unpaid traffic fine," he said. "The police turned up at my flat in Wellington and said: ‘You have to come with us,' so I had to follow them."

He spent the morning in jail and was dished up breakfast through the cell door.

"They re-looked at the information and realised it had been paid, so I was released in time for my lunch appointment with the governor general."

The 85-year-old was recognised today for his services to Maori, particularly his involvement in the preservation and promotion of the language.

Included in a long list of achievements are his involvement in a Waitangi tribunal claim that led to Te Reo Maori being recognised as an official language of New Zealand and the formation of the Maori Broadcasting Agency.

He has also chaired the Ngati Tupaia Hapu since 1999 and received an honorary doctorate at Waikato University in 1995.

Waikerepuru said he was happy to be recognised and hoped it would aide in speaking to those in high places about certain issues.

"We [Maori] have a political voice that should be recognised in decision making," he said.

He would like to see both New Zealand law and Maori law used in government decision making.

"There is no process for including Maori judiciary but they need to sit together," he said. "We need to understand both laws and apply them together."

He would like to think that somewhere along the line he could talk directly to those involved."

It was not John Key who made the call telling him of the honour, so Waikerepuru wasn't able to plan a meeting, but he's still keen.

"Come on John, we need to talk," he said. "We can talk over a bottle of beer."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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