TEU kaumātua Dr Huirangi Waikerepuru (Taranaki and Ngāpuhi) will retire from his union commitments tomorrow, aged 86. Waikerepuru is best known for his lifelong commitment to protecting and promoting Te Reo Māori. He was instrumental in getting the government to recognise Te Reo Māori as an official language, in lobbying for the creation of Te Mangai Paho and in establishing Māori radio stations and Māori television.
But his commitment to unions has also been immense. He served almost 30 years as an active member of TEU and its predecessor unions ASTE and ATTI.
TEU’s national secretary, Sharn Riggs, recalls when Waikerepuru and Whaea Kāterina Daniels led the union and were instrumental in setting up the very strong bicultural structures that are in place today.
TEU’s Te Pou Tuarā, Lee Cooper, says Waikerepuru’s retirement will be a ‘happy-sad day’.
“I’m happy he is able to retire properly from the sector after his decades of work. But we will miss his huge body of knowledge in Te Ao Kōhatu, wisdom of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga, and his calming influence.”
Cooper says Waikerepuru pioneered the Māori-specific provisions that are in many of TEU’s collective agreements and he contributed to countless union policies and Government submissions – notably the union’s strong stance on the foreshore and seabed legislation and active promotion of Te Reo Māori.
TEU’s policy officer, Jo Scott, who worked closely with Waikerepuru in ASTE, says his influence flowed into the rest of New Zealand’s union movement and overseas into Australia and the Pacific.
He presented at the very first World Indigenous People’s Conference on Education in 1987 and many more since.
He encouraged us to think more deeply about how tikanga Māori could present another way of governing our lives and institutions and has been tireless in his support of generations of Māori working in tertiary education and the union movement,” says Scott.
“He has shown us a clear path into the future.”
Former CTU president Ross Wilson says Waikerepuru made an outstanding contribution as a key leader in the fight for te reo Māori as an official language, and its promotion particularly through Māori radio.
“The union movement was privileged to have the benefit of his wisdom and extensive knowledge of tikanga as a kaumātua and adviser.”