1. Norm Dewes:
The first tangi was for an old mate, Norm Dewes. I first met Norm when he was a trade union secretary. Leon Morel, from the TUC, and John Hercus, the CE of Christchurch Technical Institute (CTI), had started the Trade Union Training group to run classes for trade union members at CTI. Norm was on the committee overseeing the organisation and Wally Burge ran the classes.
I became the auditor of several of the union organisations which Norm was involved in. He was the most scrupulous person running an organisation. His attention to fiscal accountability would show up most CA’s. It was a joy to audit his accounts. If any aspect of auditing could ever be described as a “joy”.
Norm eventually, some decades ago, took over leading the operations of Nga Hau e Wha Marae in Pages Road. Hori Brennan and Peter Heal had led the building of this Marae to serve the needs of those who came to Christchurch but who were not Tangata Whenua. Ever since it had been built it had been a place of dissent and dispute, despite the efforts of many people.
Norm’s presence, along with Linda Ngata, slowly but surely cleaned up the place. It took time but Norm was a stubborn person committed to a shared future and to provide a hand-up to those who were struggling. Under his leadership Nga Hau e Wha flourished.
Norm’s tangi was outstanding. The oratory was incredible. I bet Norm was sorry he missed it. I left the Marae on a high.
2. Bishop Richard Wallace:
Norm Dewes initially came to Christchurch as a Māori trade trainee from Wairoa. After his tangi in Christchurch his tiana (body) was transported to Wairoa. He was accompanied by Bishop Richard Wallace who had led the service at Nga Hau e Wha. While he was in Wairoa, Richard Wallace died in his sleep.
Richard’s tangi was different again. He was initially at the Te Wai Pounamu Cultural Centre where we went to pay respects to him and to his whanau. I have known Richard and his amazing wife Meri for over 35 years. Richard and Meri built up an impressive constituency of Māori Anglican vicars (especially woman) and church goers. Richard was a quiet and humble leader who walked the steps of ordinary people. He didn’t have an up himself muscle in his body and was much loved. His work will be continued by Meri, an arch deacon, and one of their daughters also an Anglican priest.
I missed the service for Richard at the Cardboard Cathedral (just let the Anglican Bishop try and sell this place when the museum in the Square is reopened) but I was delighted to hear that the Anglican Māori archbishop, say that he would introduce himself with his approved name, English first. That was a signal that he was pissed off at the nonsense which the 3 headed Government was engaged in. This was an early signal of what has followed. He also presided at the Kingitanga gathering at Ngāruawāhia later in the month.
Richard leaves a challenge for those who follow him. His humility and service to his people, and those of us who walk alongside his community, with a big hole to fill.
3. Theo Bunker:
On the night of hearing of Richard’s death, I rang Theo Bunker as he and Richard had started school on the same day together at Little River school and had stayed lifelong friends. He was so sad for his mate dying but he also died later in the week after assisting the digging of Richard’s grave in the Wairewa Urupa. His Tangi at Onuku Marae was a beautiful occasion.
These three gentlemen contributed hugely to our society. We mourn the loss of them all. One amazing factor at all their tangis was the strength of the young Māori, the Kohanga Reo generation, who led the rituals. They are strong in their culture. They are fluent in te Reo. They are a generation to be watched. They are on their way.