The following article was originally published on Jun 05 2023 in the Gisborne Herald
A life of service to Māori has earned Ngāti Porou leader Selwyn Tanetoa Parata a knighthood in this year’s King’s Honours List.
Sir Selwyn (Ngāti Porou, Ngāi Tahu) was named a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to Māori.
He said he was humbled when he was first notified about the honour, “especially when I reflected on all those people who instilled in me the value of service and duty and their own selfless efforts. A lot of these pou have passed but some are still with us today”.
“I was elated because the honour, while awarded to me, is an acknowledgement of all the progress and success that Ngāti Porou and Te Ao Māori have achieved, on multiple kaupapa, over many years,” he said.
Sir Selwyn has been a trustee of Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Porou since 1987 and its successor Te Rūnanganui o Ngāti Porou since 2012, serving as deputy chair and then chair.
He has been in the active service of Ngāti Porou for the past 47 years.
“Ngāti Porou pakeke saw in me an aptitude to learn, and a willingness to put into practice what I was learning, be that on the marae, in wānanga at home or on the kapa haka stage,” he said.
“My pakeke told me, whakarongo, listen, titiro, watch and whakatinana, put into action — that is how you learn.
“I am grateful for the many pakeke including my Ngarimu and Kaua tīpuna, Aunty Ngoi Pewhairangi, Uncle Api Mahuika, Uncle Boycie (Morehu) Te Maro and my mother, who mentored and disciplined me.
“I was lucky to be brought up in Ruatōria by nannies and papas who spoke their minds. They were sometimes my harshest critics and always my strongest supporters.
“They all had a strong sense of duty to whānau, hapū, iwi, and the wider community. They were very staunch about their relationships with each other, clear on how they should help one another and forthright in holding each other accountable.”
The mentoring and encouragement he received from pakeke like his aunty Teo Gerrard and uncle Sam (Hamuera) Reedy, led to his stalwart commitment to his marae and appointment as chair of the Hiruharama and Whareponga Pā, in the early 1980s — positions he still holds today.
Sir Selwyn supported the commemoration of the 28 Māori Battalion and the establishment of the C Company Memorial Museum in Gisborne.
“I grew up in households that reflected daily on the exploits and sacrifices of the C Company of the 28 Māori battalion. My father was in D Company. These discussions were constant reminders, of the ‘price of citizenship’ that Ngāti Porou and others paid for God, King and country.”
Sir Selwyn is chair of Te Matatini board, responsible for the biennial National Kapa Haka Competition, one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s premier cultural events and international indigenous cultural events.
Under his leadership the profile and financial position of Te Matatini has grown significantly, along with audience numbers, rising to more than 1.8 million television viewers, for Te Matatini Herenga Waka, Herenga Tangata 2023 and kapa participation across the country.
Investment and engagement strategies have seen the growth of Māori performing arts across education, public and private sectors and international culture and trade exchanges.
Mr Parata said getting more investment in Te Matatini was about relationships.
“It’s all about relationships with people, not only the people deeply embedded in kapa haka and tikanga but also relationships with the government of the day, ministers of the Crown, the private sector, community organisations and educational institutions. You need to take the time to build trust and confidence, to take people on the journey with you.
“The recent Budget announcement hasn’t happened overnight — it’s been an ongoing battle.
“The $34 million Government investment in Te Matatini over the next two years will provide resources to help strengthen the twelve regions in Aotearoa and one region in Australia, the backbone of Te Matatini.
“The additional investment will also be shared with marae and schools across the country, building and supporting them to grow and nurture kapa haka as a medium for cultural, social, and economic wellbeing.
“Kapa haka is not just about performing. It’s about retaining and celebrating identity and culture, about being fit and well, being good role models, and reinforcing life-long values that fortify us as people.
“The rejuvenation of traditional performing arts, culture and language adds value tō the wellbeing of the country, Aotearoa New Zealand, not just iwi and Māori.”
Reflecting on the past 47 years, Sir Selwyn said a stand-out was his participation in the Te Māori exhibition which travelled the United States in 1984 showcasing Māori taonga in New York, St Louis, Chicago and San Francisco. “Te Māori took Te Ao Māori, taonga and tikanga to the world and Te Hokinga mai, the return, was just as uplifting and memorable. “
Another was working with the likes of Aunty Kate Walker, Uncle Tom Te Maro, Aunty Merekaraka Ngarimu , Marie Collier and Waho Tibble in organising the annual Ta Apirana Ngata Memorial Lectures, and with his uncle Tāmati Reedy and Amohaere Houkamau, in establishing the annual Ngāti Porou event calendar, including the dawn ceremony on Hikurangi, Pā Wars, Hui Taurima, the lectures and the Ngāti Porou pakeke celebration.
“I was fortunate to have been the ‘boy’ on the rūnanga with my uncles, Api Mahuika, Koro Dewes, Phil Aspinall, Tate Pewhairangi, Noel Raihania and of course my kōkā, Iritana Tawhiwhirangi and Maria Whitehead. Uncle Api led Te Haeata, the Ngāti Porou Treaty of Waitangi claims negotiation team, which I was a member of, culminating in the Ngāti Porou Claims Settlement Act 2012.
“Uncle Api also led the Takutaimoana negotiations between Ngāti Porou and the Crown, and I, along with the rūnanganui board completed this, with the enactment of the Ngā Rohe Moana o Ngā Hapū o Ngāti Porou Act 2019.
Sir Selwyn said contributing to the safety, welfare, and wellbeing of whānau throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and cyclones Hale and Gabrielle, were a constant reminder to him of the duty of care that all elected leaders and representatives of the people and communities of Ngāti Porou, Tairāwhiti and Aotearoa must uphold.
“I am proud of the stance Ngāti Porou took during Covid-19 and the past two cyclones, in taking care of our whānau and communities, in ensuring people were safe, in going above and beyond the call of duty to do what needed to be done,” he said.
“I am pleased to say that this aroha was extended to all people who live among us, during these challenging times.”
Sir Selwyn is the chair of Rau Tipu Rau Ora Tairāwhiti leadership group, established to lead Covid-19, future pandemic and disaster response and recovery.
He says his life journey has been about instilling the “nāti into the nāti” which is about connecting Ngāti Porou uri with their Ngāti Poroutanga, their reo, tikanga, marae, whakapapa, waiata, whenua and whānau.
But along with all this mahi, whānau is important. He tries to make it to his mokopuna sporting events and is often the whānau representative at whānau, hapū, marae and iwi events and functions.
“The Hāhi Mihingare, Anglican Church, and daily karakia have been an important part of my life, influenced by my grandmother, Margaret Parata, nee Cowie, a Scotswoman from Inverness, and Archbishop Brown Tūrei,.Their faith and humility left an indelible impression on me.”
Sir Selwyn and his wife Amohaere Houkamau are proud parents of four adult children, Āwhina, Ngārimu, Rapaea and Te Muiora and doting grandparents of Mokena, Tumatahaia, Huriata and Tanetoa.
He has been there as a brother, uncle, nephew and mokopuna to support his immediate and extended whānau in their own career, cultural, sporting and business pursuits.
His King’s honour award is for services to iwi and Māori, but he says all the mahi he has done is in service to Ngāti Porou, Tairāwhiti and Aotearoa culture and heritage.
Written by Matai O’Connor (Gisborne Herald)
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