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New Zealand Parliament

Rangitihi (John) Tahupārae.

Parliament’s first Kaumātua, Rangitihi (John) Tahupārae.

8 October 2008

Tohunga Rangitihi (John) Tahupārae

Thousands of mourners gathered at Whanganui’s Pūtiki Wharanui Marae for the funeral of Parliament’s first Kaumātua, Rangitihi (John) Tahupārae.

‘John T’, as he was affectionately known, died on Thursday 2nd October at his home in Whanganui.

Tahu was a revered Tohunga, a great orator, an inspirational role model and a guardian and promoter of our cultural heritage. As Kaumātua he provided advice on protocol and tikanga and gave strong support at ceremonial occasions. His traditional upbringing and knowledge were invaluable assets that added to the dignity and cultural heritage of our Parliament.

The Speaker, Hon Margaret Wilson, was the first to publicly pay tribute to Tahu.

Ms Wilson said Mr Tahupārae (Whanganui, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa, Ngāti Maru Kōpiri, Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Rauru, Ngāti Apa, Rangitāne, Ngāti Maniapoto) had made a significant contribution to Parliament and would be a great loss. His contribution to the mana of Parliament could not be underestimated.

In June this year he led the unique whakanoa ceremony at Parliament as part of Tribute 08, the national reunion to honour Vietnam veterans and their families.

In his official role he presided over ceremonies of national importance, including visits of royalty and foreign dignitaries. He was a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit and a member of the Waitangi Tribunal.

But it is on his beloved Whanganui River that he has left a lasting legacy of his mentoring of a generation of young leaders.

He pioneered Whanake Rangataua 30 years ago that drew on the cultural traditions in martial arts as an alternative to the gang culture. He founded Rangataua O Aotearoa Maori Martial Arts and Cultural Crafts Association. He achieved national prominence as a pioneering broadcaster, he was cultural and spiritual adviser to Vincent Ward in River Queen and he launched the annual Tira Hoe Waka, where Whanganui descendants paddle down the river, learning tribal history and papakainga.

Tributes to Tahu have flowed since his death last Thursday. MPs from across the political spectrum led by Prime Minister Helen Clark have expressed their sadness at Tahu’s death.

The Governor-General, Madam Speaker and the Minister of Māori Affairs led the mourners at the7th October service at Pūtiki Wharanui. Following the service, the tangata whenua performed the closing ceremony and John was carried to his final resting place.

‘E te Pou Toki Tangata, arā, te Kaumātua o te Whare Pāremata, haere, e moe ki te moenga roa o te rahi, e kore e hoki mai. E Tahupārae, haere, haere, haere, oti atu ki te pō’