Parliament yesterday paid to Parekura Horomia. Many funny and moving speeches. Some extracts:
On any marae in the country, and especially amongst his own people, he was in his element. I myself remember a number of occasions when he came up when I was on the marae, to ensure that I was comfortable and aware of the protocols and procedures. The respect he commanded was borne from his tireless work for his people, the people from Ikaroa-Rāwhiti and all of Māoridom.
Despite our political differences, and because of our shared love of making up words, I have always had enormous respect for Parekura and his command of the English language. He never forgot where he came from and why he was here in Parliament. Parekura played an extremely important role in building the strong and positive relationship that currently exists between Māori and the Crown, and I hope his family are as proud of his achievements in this area as in every other. Parekura was staunchly loyal to his Prime Minister, to his party, and, most important, to his people. Through some of the most difficult times he took counsel from the people he was elected to serve. Through everything he championed a better deal for Māori. He did so across party lines, and he was not afraid to fight for what he believed in. I will remember his presence in this Chamber, his big smile, and his warm heart.
I remember more than once in our caucus meetings when we were talking about high-level sort of issues on policy and getting rather hypothetical about things, it would Parekura who would bring us down to earth, talking about the family he met when he was travelling up that day, and talking about that family who he met, those people who he met, and asking what they would get out of that particular policy that we were pushing out in front of us.
I think, more than anything, that is what most of us are going to miss about Parekura is that he was when you saw Parekura you just saw a mate. He did not get overly fussed about the politics. He was, for a while, when Tariana came marching up on to Parliament here with 50,000 people to oppose the foreshore and seabed legislation, but even apart from that he was easy to get on with. So I am going to miss seeing him waddle around the House here. I am not going to miss him telling me what to do, though. I used to say to him: “Parekura, you’re not even in the same party. You can’t tell me what to do.” He said: “Oh, I know that.” and then he would still tell me what to do. I am going to miss all of that and I think a lot of us are.
While I reflect on the great members of Parliament who I have known in this place over 10 Parliaments—the wonderful Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan , Koru Wetere, and Peter Tapsell , just to name a few—they had a common thread through them, these Māori role-model leaders, and that was that they went about their work in a very dignified way. They had their say and did not make too many enemies, but they did make a difference. So Māoridom has lost a significant figure in Parekura’s passing. His constituents have lost a leader and an advocate for them in this House, and since his death, many have remarked on just how tirelessly he worked for his community. …
He worked his way from the bottom up, holding jobs as a manual labourer, a printer, a fencer, a worker, and many careers in between before he became a member of Parliament and a Minister of the Crown. Today it seems that many of our young people want a short cut to the top, but when they find how much hard work has to be done and how much is needed to get there, they often give up before they begin. Parekura was living proof that no matter what your background is, if you put your mind to it and are prepared to put in the hard work, you can achieve anything.
My instance relates to an event a couple of years ago. I went up to Gisborne to open a new dental clinic at a very large intermediate school. By coincidence at the airport I ran into Parekura.
“What are you doing here?”, he said. I told him what I was doing. He said: “Oh, that’s in my electorate. I better come. Have you got a car?”. I said: “I’ve got a driver waiting.” “OK. I’ll come too.”, he said. So he piled into the car, which lurched considerably to the right as we drove off to the school. The moment we arrived, he took over. I was ushered onto the marae. He was my translator, my minder, and the person who pushed me forward and made me do all the things that I was expected to do, and he did it with aplomb. He was the star of the show. When the time came to leave, he said: “Where are you going now?”. I said I was going on to a meeting at the hospital. “Oh, I better come too.”, he said. So he tagged along, and we went through the same procedure, and it was the same procedure at the third appointment. Then it was time for me to go back to the airport, so he came back to the airport with me, and as the driver dropped me off, Parekura said: “Oh, just one thing—is it OK for him to run me up the coast now and run me home?”. I could hardly say no. The driver then completed the occasion by saying: “Well, I should actually take you home because the last time I drove past your place, a couple of weeks ago, the lawns hadn’t been mowed.” So Parekura was going home to sort it out.
Just before I wind up, when David Shearer had his by-election, Parekura, Kelvin Davis, and Shane Jones were dispatched to the rather grimy streets of Avondale to doorknock. Parekura, being the senior, dispatched Kelvin Davis. He said: “Here, boy, here’s some pamphlets. Go and stand on the other side of the street. Go up there, down there.” He said: “Shane, Chief, you stay with me. You stay with me. We’ll go up the other end of the street.”, which we did. Then, getting outside a house, Parekura said to me: “Now, boy, you take these pamphlets. I’ll guard our waka. Just go and knock on that door.” I proceeded to knock on the door, only to be greeted with the largest, angriest dog in John Tamihere’s neighbourhood. And as the dog barked at me, Parekura called: “E hoa, pussy, pussy, pussy.” A Māori came out of that house. He looked at me and said: “Yeah, what do you want?”. I said: “By-election, e hoa, pamphlets.”, as the dog barked. He looked past me and he saw Parekura. Parekura hopped out of the car. He said: “Oh, kia ora, uncle.” as he went into that house. As Parekura sensed the fish heads cooking, he became positively athletic. Kelvin Davis, meanwhile, was wandering around in circles. The moral of the story is the randomness of politics. Parekura, you are in Hawaiki; Kelvin Davis, you are unemployed; Shane Jones, you have been in the crap; and David Shearer is our leader. Kia ora tātou.
The truth is I held Pare in the highest of regard and with the greatest of respect. I did not know him as many of you did, as the father, the grandfather, the brother, the family member, and part of your closer iwi community. I only knew him for his time here in Parliament. During that time I think all of the comments that have been made about him and about his personality I would have to agree with. He was one of those very warm people who could articulate an argument in his favour without being in any way vindictive, without any degree of vehemence, with simply a desire to stick to the issues, and to respect individuals for their own beliefs. …
During the debate one of the colleagues on this side of the House gave an impassioned speech in which he said words to the effect that the almighty God had created the foreshore and seabed for the enjoyment of all New Zealanders. Pare saw Simon and I sitting here and sent us over a note very, very quickly that said: “Gerry, Simon, tell the fool God’s a woman and she’s giving it all to the Māori.”
I first met him when I was a brand new MP back in about 1997 I think, at a select committee where he was presenting at a financial review as the person who was in charge of the community employment group. Anyone who knows how that works, people come in and they sit at the end of the table. They are generally invited to make a few opening comments, and then there is a series of questions. Pare’s comments went on for quite sometime. I had been warned before that this man was somewhat of a jargonaut. His speech and comments were filled with macros, micros, matrixes and analyses, synergies, and paradigms. It was a wonderful story, and beautifully articulated but left you somewhat perplexed as to what exactly it was about. I very boldly asked him. I said: “That’s very well, Mr Horomia, but what does it mean?” And he said: “Oh, well, chief, it means we’ve done a good job.” On that note can I simply say Pare, you have done a good job.
We heard that he was hard to understand at times. I do not know whether my friend Shane Jones remembers this,
but one year I went to Rātana, as we did, year in, year out, and Parekura never missed. I was seated behind Shane Jones and Dover Samuels. Parekura got up and he was speaking. I leaned forward and I said to Shane and Dover: “What’s he saying?”. They said: “We haven’t got a clue.”
I worked with Parekura and for Parekura, and I saw h
im operate successfully and effectively no matter which Government was in power, because he went with authenticity for what he was trying to achieve. I think that he was very effective, and I think it is important that in a democracy like ours and in a House of Representatives like this we always welcome and value that rich diversity that he personified, not only in what he did but in the way he did it and the way that he was warm and generous. It has already been said that he was a big man with a big heart. He absolutely was. He worked extremely hard. I totally agree with Annette King, I think it was, who said he wanted to die doing what he loved doing.
Parekura was a good Labour man and a strong supporter of women—within our party, within his electorate, and across the country—as evidenced by his life membership of the Māori Women’s Welfare League. When I first entered Parliament, he called me into his office and he said: “Don’t you let those men push you around. You stand up for yourself.” It is not always easy being the whitest Māori in the room, and I always appreciated how he looked out for me and supported me. Despite always telling me to shut up, he had my back. …
Parekura was a mentor and a friend to me. I suspect that, to him, I was first and foremost a somewhat reluctant co-conspirator in his elaborate plots to avoid having to come to Wellington each week. It was my job to back him up. I remember him phoning me after he had told the whips that his flight from Gisborne to Wellington had been diverted. He said that they did not believe him, so I said: “Well, where did you tell them it had been diverted to?”. He said: “Auckland.”
I asked him why he did not say Napier or Palmerston North or indeed any other place actually on the way to Wellington instead of 500 kilometres in the opposite direction, to which he simply replied: “Shut up, Moana.” I also remember the day Air New Zealand announced that it was increasing the number of flights between Gisborne and Wellington—a dark day for Parekura. I also remember the ensuing phone call instructing me in very colourful language to keep my mouth shut and to not tell the whips about the extra flights. I will miss the phone calls, I will miss him shouting questions to me from the other end of the plane on our flights home, and I would give anything to hear him say “Shut up, Moana.” one last time.