Mourners pay respects to Kingi Taurua

Hundreds of mourners have been paying their respects to the Waitangi chief, Kingi Taurua, who died last Thursday.

Kingi Taurua Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Mr Taurua‘s body has been lying in state at Waitangi and Oromahoe, his home marae.

His friend and comrade-in-arms Rihari Dargaville, said the former public servant, Vietnam vet, sovereignty campaigner, and award-winning radio host had many friends.

“He touched them through his involvement with the radio station Waatea, you know and he touched everybody, so we had people from all the major tribes of the North Island anyway, they had representatives attend.”

And they‘ve travelled from around the country to farewell him.

For many years, the Ngāpuhi elder was the face of Waitangi Day protests at Te Tii Marae.

Kingi Taurua will be taken to Whitiora marae at Te Tii Mangonui, where his funeral will be held tomorrow at 1pm, Mr Dargaville said.

Mourners come from far and wide

“They‘ve come from all over, not just Tai Tokerau, but from Ngāti Porou, Tainui, all those tribes that he had links to,” Mr Dargaville said.

There had been robust debate at Mr Taurua‘s tangi as to where he should be buried, with several marae vying for the honour.

It was decided to take him home to his mother‘s people at Te Tii Mangonui, over the water from Kerikeri.

Mr Dargaville said Mr Taurua began his career as a soldier and was awarded the army‘s good conduct medal for exemplary service in Vietnam.

However, like many veterans, he returned home haunted by his experiences.

“He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. But he was a proud man and it took many years before he would agree to seek treatment for it,” Mr Dargaville said.

Mr Taurua looked for the familiar discipline of hierarchy and began his post-Vietnam career as a corrections‘ officer at Paremoremo prison.

His talent and fluent reo were recognised and he then served as an advisor to several government ministers, Mr Dargaville said.

But his days as a compliant public servant came to an end in the 1990s as he witnessed the struggles of young Māori.

“I guess you could say he became a radical when he occupied that maunga,” Rihari Dargaville said.

In 1997, Mr Taurua occupied Poerura maunga, near Kaikohe, in protest to plans by Tai Tokerau Maori Trust Board to buy it from a private owner and hand back its control to a local hapū.

“He was making the point that that maunga was important to more than just one hapū and he sat up there for months,” Mr Dargaville said.