Opening Speech: ‘Kia Ora Chief’ Release

  • Te Ururoa Flavell
Maori Development Economic Development

It is a great honour to host this evening’s proceedings to mark the Wellington release of the book Parekura Horomia ‘Kia Ora Chief’.

The official release of this biography occurred over the weekend at Parekura’s beloved Hinemaurea ki Māngātuna at Uawa.

There, his people poured over the personal anecdotes; the funny stories; the heartfelt memories; and the poignant, often intimate photos.

They laughed, they cried, they remembered.

Tonight, we - his parliamentary colleagues - do the same. 

We pay tribute to a man renowned for the ease at which he could comfortably move amongst people of all walks of life.

His beautiful smile beams out from the very first page.  

He once drew upon the words of African American writer, Maya Angelou, to provide some timely advice to caucus.

People may forget what you have said, people may forget what you have done, but they will never forget how you made them feel.’

It could equally have been Parekura’s  trademark – the man we all thought of as our friend..

The biography reveals a man who always gave so generously of himself to the people.

Whether it was working alongside 300 PEP workers during the clean-up of Cyclone Bola; sitting with tamariki at the local kura and kōhanga; slipping into a tangi late at night; or just having a yarn with supporters in his electorate – he was always a man of the people.

His ability to relate to young and old, their personal, professional, and even political circumstances, was legendary.

When the Māori Party was in its fledgling stages, he provided valuable counsel to us. 

At the time, most people thought there must have been a fair bit of tension.

But it was never like that with Parekura. 

He was one of the first people to come when we first arrived in Parliament.  He said 'Look, I'm here to help with anything'.

He'd just come and sit down at the table.

We might have had different views, but the great thing about him was that he never let politics poison him.   What happened in the debating chamber stayed in the debating chamber – outside the House he was the perfect gentleman; inside was another story.

In his maiden speech close to fifteen years ago, there were some classic Parekuraisms that endeared him to us.  

He told us in no uncertain terms: “Albeit, we have a matrix of dysfunctionality within Maoridom”.   He then went on,

Hohua Tutengaehe used to say that Maori people are the most "reviewed" people in the world. There are reviews on reviews. So we do not want any more reviews. We need to get on with the action.

And he finished with the unforgettable story of the barefoot boy from Tolaga Bay, walking five kilometres to school while watching an empty bus drive by, leaving him behind.

In all these three stories, in his own distinctive style, he let us in on his secret – that his past had shaped him, his present was testing him, but his greatest opportunity was to create a better future for his sons and mokopuna to benefit from.   

While he loved to play with words, ake noa, ake noa, ake noa, he was motivated by the need for action – to be useful, to make a difference.  This book shares the actions he took in many rich and colourful ways.

Kia Ora Chief illuminates the many dimensions of Parekura’s life – as a boy growing up in Māngātuna, as a husband and father; as a public servant and politician, scrub-cutter and shearer, fencer and printer and a great mate to many.   He was a proud member of the Labour Party; a dedicated Department of Labour worker; a passionate politician and electorate MP.

But his first loyalties were always to his whanau and to his beloved Māngātuna, Ūawa, Tolaga Bay and Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti.   Our greatest sadness in receiving this book is to think about his whānau, robbed of such a wonderful dad and koro; a loving uncle; a devoted nephew.  The tragedy of our loss reminds us all of the vital need to make health our priority; to take time to breathe, to give life the best chance we can.   We miss him so much in this House – and we can only imagine how bereft the whānau must be as they have adjusted to life without Para over these last eighteen months.   We can only hope that the stories in this wonderful book help restore those memories to us all of the big man, the Hauitian who held our hearts, our Chief.

The biography is crammed full of stories from over sixty friends and acquaintances.  Some will join us tonight to speak of their, experiences and memories – Nanaia Mahuta, Hekia Parata, Brian Morris, Sir Wira Gardiner and son, Desmond Horomia.

Ladies and gentlemen, many hands have made this gift possible: the contributors and interviewees who shared their stories; Huia Publishers and of course the author Wira Gardiner.

We are indebted to you, Sir Wira, for promising Parekura’s sons that you would write their father’s story. 

We are grateful that you delivered on your promise.

In doing so, you have bequeathed to the country, a memoir and account of a much loved man and leader who has immortalised the greeting uniquely associated with him :  ‘Kia Ora Chief!’