Dame Miraka Szazsy and the Right Reverend Manuhuia Bennett

  • Tariana Turia
Maori Affairs

Two weeks ago we paid tribute to and farewelled Sir Peter Blake, a great New Zealander. Today I learnt of the passing of two more great New Zealanders, Dame Miraka Szazy and Bishop Manuhuia Bennett.

Na reira korua nga matua haere atu korua ki nga tupuna i te po. Ahakoa kua kapohia korua e te kuia nei i a mate kare matau e wareware i a korua. Na reira, e te mate kei whea to wero e te po, kei whea to wikitoria. Aue taukuri e.

Miraka Petricevich was not only widely known within the national indigenous community, she was widely respected by indigenous people internationally. Mira was a motivating and inspirational leader of the Maori Women’s Welfare League with a clear mind, and a keen intellect. She was an incisive speaker and debater who would have commanded a presence and respect in this forum.

Dame Mira was an extremely dignified and cultured mokopuna of the Taitokerau and of Ngati Kuri. She was also a daughter of Dalmatia. Mira had an insatiable appetite for work and a passion to ensure that the rights accorded her people under the Treaty of Waitangi would become realities.

Mira, right to the end was involved in her people’s Treaty claims and the last time I spoke with her was at this year’s Maori Women’s Welfare League Conference in Taranaki. She was not well but her presence still inspired.

I admired Mira for the way in which she challenged oppressive behaviour with such graceful dignity. I consider her to be one of our finest leaders for the way in which she respected the essence of humanity in all people, a reflection, perhaps, of the richness of her Ngati Kuri and Dalmatian origins.

Na reira e te tuahine, haere atu ki o tupuna.

Bishop Manuhuia Bennett, the son of Ngati Whakaue, Ngati Pikiao and Ngati Rangitihi, this pou of the Anglican Church, will always be remembered by me as a man who delighted in his interactions with young people.

Manu came from a family who were always destined to be leaders, whether it be in the church, in the army, in the public service, or in politics.

As my sister Sandra Lee has stated, “Manu’s life and achievements could not be simply captured in a statement”. They will, however, materialise in the visions, the hopes and the dreams of those fortunate enough to have been moved by him in his eighty-five years of life.

To the whanau pani, and to Kaa, my heartfelt condolences. To Te Arawa, celebrate the life of your mokopuna as this is not a time of sadness, but a time where we reflect on the privilege we have had in sharing Manu. So thank you, Te Arawa, for sharing one of your taonga with this country.

Haere atu e Manu, ki o tupuna i te wahi ngaro.