Poroporoaki: Whetūmārama Wereta

Māori Development

Ka tanuku ka tanuku

Ka tanuku te tihi o Maunganui a ha ha

E kapo ki te whetū, e kapo ki te marama, e kapo ki te ata

Ko aku raukura ka riro rā e.

E tangi ana te ngākau i te rironga a Whetūmārama Wereta (nee Rolleston) inanahi nei. He uri ia nā Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi anō hoki. I tipu ake ia ki ōna whenua tipuna kei Te Puna i raro i te maru o tōna hapū a Pirirākau.

He wahine toa, he wahine māia, nāna i para i ētahi huarahi i roto i te Rangapū Tūmatanui i ōnā rā. Ko ia hoki tērā tētahi o ngā kaitatauranga Māori tuatahi, ā, ko tōna rongo hei kaitatauranga, mātanga tatauranga-ā-Māori i puta ki ngā tōpito o te ao nā āna mahi i te ao tatauranga nei. Kaati, nāna tonu i ātawhaitia ngā mātanga Māori i whai i ōna tapuwae ki te Rangapū Tūmatanui – ko te nuinga kua eke kairangi ki tēnei Rangapū, ki roto i te ao Māori hoki.

E whakahoki atu ana a Whetū ki Rātana, ki reira takoto ai ki te taha o tōna hoa rangatira a Tūmanako Wereta. E ai ki te kōrero, nā te mate i wehe, mā te mate anō e tūhono.

Nō reira, haere, haere, haere e te rangatira. Haere atu ki ō mātua tīpuna, kaungia ō moana, pikitia ō māunga, tāwhaitia atu ngā parae, ā, waiho rā mā ngā ao kapua me ngā huruhuru o ngā manu rangatira o Te Wao Tapu nui ā Tāne e kawe haere tō rongo ki te motu, otirā ki te ao whānui. 

Takoto mai rā, okioki ai.

It was with much sadness that I learned of the passing of Whetūmārama Wereta (nee Rolleston) yesterday.

Whetū (as she was fondly known) was a humble person who achieved much during her career as a public servant. She was one of our first qualified female Māori statisticians and political scientist.

Her career spanned many decades beginning in the early 1970’s in the then Department of Statistics. Whetū then spent time in the former Department of Māori Affairs, Department of Internal Affairs, Manatū Māori before returning to the Department of Statistics in 1992 where she was appointed as the inaugural Manager, Māori Statistics. This was then followed by her appointment as General Manager, Māori Statistics in 2001 where she remained until her retirement.

Some of Whetū’s career highlights include her appointment to the five-person Royal Commission on the Electoral System in 1985-86 that recommended mixed member proportional representation for elections to the New Zealand Parliament. In 1988, Whetū was appointed to serve on the Picot taskforce to review the functions of the then Department of Education. As the only Māori on the task force, Whetū remained vigilant and kept others to account in emphasising a Māori perspective.  

Whetū also spent time on the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, the Local Government Commission, the Māori Committee to the New Zealand Law Commission where she was a major contributor to April 1999 report by the Law Commission on Justice: The Experiences of Māori Women. In 2006, Whetū was appointed as the governments’ representative on the Representation Commission, responsible for determining the boundaries of the Māori electoral districts.

Importantly, Whetū nurtured and mentored many young Māori through the Public Service. She was known for setting high standards, maintaining professionalism – even in the face of adversity and was a staunch protector of them. Many of these people have risen through the ranks as it were both in the public service and in te ao Māori more generally.

Whetū will be returning to Rātana pā to be laid to rest beside her late husband, Tūmanako Wereta – former chairperson of Tūaropaki Trust. Whilst they both could stand on their own mana, together they were formidable. Both Whetū and Tūmanako were unashamed long-serving Labour Party members, and in fact it was through their work in the Labour Party that they met.

Our thoughts and prayers are with their daughter Puawai and her whānau as well as Whetū’s wider whānau at this time.