The funeral of the Hon Sir Peter Tapsell KNZM, MBE took place this week at Whakauē Kaipapa Marae, on the shores of the Maketū Estuary. The current Speaker, Dr The Rt Hon Lockwood Smith, delivered the eulogy.
Sir Peter was the first Māori Speaker of the House of Representatives. His was a life of service.
Of Te Arawa descent, he was born in Rotorua and lived there for much of his life. He was a talented sportsman, and was vice-captain of the 1954 Māori All Blacks. He practised as an orthopaedic surgeon before entering Parliament as the New Zealand Labour member for Eastern Māori in 1981.
During the Labour Government of 1984-90 Sir Peter held various portfolios including internal affairs, arts, police, civil defence, science, forestry, and defence.
The New Zealand National Party won the 1993 election with a majority of one. The governing party traditionally appointed the Speaker from its own ranks, but that would have meant that National lost its majority (at that time the Speaker had only a casting vote). So the Speakership was offered to a member of the Opposition—Sir Peter. He served as Speaker from 1993 to 1996.
As Speaker he hosted Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II when she formally opened the refurbished Parliament House in 1995.
The 1996 election saw Māori voters turn away from Labour, and Sir Peter lost his seat. Thereafter he was actively involved in a number of organisations.
In 1968 he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his services to medicine and the Māori people. He was knighted in 1997.
He died on 5 April 2012 aged 82. He is survived by his four children. His wife died in 2008.
E Te Mana Whakawā i tōu wā, moe mai, moe mai, okioki.