Arguments elevate mana of former Ōtaki man

Mauriora Kingi’s cousin Akuhata Akuhata shares a joke with old acquaintance Te Ariki Morehu from Te Arawa. Photo by Whare Akuhata
Mauriora Kingi’s cousin Akuhata Akuhata shares a joke with old acquaintance Te Ariki Morehu from Te Arawa. Photo by Whare Akuhata

The dining hall at Te Pou o Tainui Marae, Ōtaki was full to capacity when a mostly Te Arawa contingent from Rotorua were here over the weekend to attend a (kawe mate) memorial service for nationally known cultural identity Mauriora Kingi.

Mr Kingi was brought up in Ōtaki but was better known as being from Te Arawa. He died in June last year aged 53 years old just days after he was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday honours for services to Māori.

Mr Kingi was a staunch advocate for te reo Māori and worked to create more understanding between Pākehā and tāngata whenua. He worked as a cultural advisor for the Rotorua District Council and became an influential figure in advising local and central government on Māori tikanga and customs.

He was one of Te Arawa’s leading speakers and in that capacity welcomed prime ministers, presidents, royalty and people from all over the world.

On Saturday more then 200 people attended the ceremony on the Ngāti Kapumanawawhiti marae and included tribal leaders from Te Arawa and Tainui as well as visitors from Tūhoe and Ngāti Maniapoto.

During the speeches both the visitors and local speakers argued Mr Kingi belonged to them. He was raised in Ōtaki but leading Te Arawa speaker Pihopa Kingi (no relation) discounted this fact and was quite forthright in his claim — he injected the right touch of humour. This all served to elevate the mana of a man who is sadly missed and further strengthens the connections between both groups.

The speeches and waiata (songs) that were sung also further reinforced these close connections — through whakapapa (genealogy) and battles fought — between the Rotorua tribes and Ngāti Raukawa.

Mr Kingi, who was known as Chris while here in Ōtaki, attended the local secondary school and while there won the prestigious National Manu Kōrero speech competition. Te Arawa leader, Te Hiko Hohepa, tutored him and encouraged him to move to Rotorua and live with his Te Arawa relations.