Hiwi Tauroa - 'one of the most dynamic and distinguished leaders of our time’

Updated: Oct 7, 2019

Hiwi Tauroa 1927 – 2018, famous Hawera High School Alumnus and Teacher

Edward Te Rangihiwinui Tauroa, better known as Hiwi

Ngā Puhi, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahu

Edward Te Rangihiwinui Tauroa, better known as Hiwi, had strong links with South Taranaki having been born there 29 May 1927, at Okaiawa, the son of a Methodist minister. His schooling began at Waima Primary School in the Hokianga. He won a scholarship to Wesley College for one year before going on to Hawera Technical High School. From there he won a Māori scholarship to Auckland University and then graduated with a B.Sc. degree in Agricultural Science from Massey University in 1951.

From 1951-54 he was a Māori All Black and during that time undertook Diploma in Education papers at Victoria and Massey Universities, graduated from Training College. He taught in Okato, Kaeo, and then at Hawera High School (1958 – 61), where he was the Senior Teacher, Agricultural Department and also taught General Science where he was my teacher in the 5th form.

Mr. G.A. Thompson, Principal of Hawera High School, in his end-of-year message, about staff, in the 1958 School Magazine had the following to say about Hiwi Tauroa:

"We were pleased to welcome Mr E. Tauroa, B. Agri. Sc., an Old Boy of this School, to the staff at the beginning of the Third Term. He has made good use of his time since leaving Hawera in 1945, by completing his B. Agri. Sci, degree, by representing N.Z. Universities, and the Maori All Blacks in rugby tours of Australia, and in gaining sound teaching experience at Okato and Kaeo District High Schools. In his short time here, he has impressed us all with his quiet manner, subtle humour, and I am sure, his promise as a very suitable senior Agricultural master. In this prosperous dairying province of Taranaki, there is an important job for an Agricultural teacher and we believe he has the qualities to do this with distinction. We welcome gladly Mr. and Mrs. Tauroa into our midst."

Hiwi was a natural teacher, who commanded respect with his firm but reasonable approach (he was known amongst the Agriculture pupils, who were by and large the toughest pupils in the school to teach, as ‘Mr Terror’), and he displayed an uncanny ability in identifying the needs of his students and taking appropriate action. For some unknown reason Hawera High School did not utilise his rugby coaching skills. If they had the results may well have been better for the First XV during his time at the school.

In 1962 he moved to Okaihau on promotion. Hiwi was Deputy Principal of Wesley College, in Paerata,1968 to 1970, then Principal to 1974, the first old boy to hold this position. He was head hunted to be the first Principal of Tuakau College and was there for six years 1974 – 1979. In obituary notices it was highlighted that Hiwi was the first Māori to be appointed head of a secondary school.

Hiwi came to national attention in the late 70s as a rugby coach, leading the Counties team to three national titles. He was so successful that many thought he should have been appointed All Blacks coach.

In 1979 he was appointed to lead the Race Relations Office. This new position was possibly the most contentious he ever occupied. Hiwi was the first person of Maori descent to have this role. He held this post before, during and after the 1981 Springbok tour, and struggled to heal the deep divisions between anti-apartheid protesters and rugby supporters who thought there should be no politics in sport. Before the tour took place, despite opposition from anti-apartheid groups, Hiwi Tauroa accepted an invitation to visit South Africa where he had discussions with the people he wanted to meet, including Bishop Desmond Tutu.

After he returned to New Zealand, he opposed the Springbok tour. In his report ‘I Only Had Twenty One Days’, Hiwi acknowledged that there was some integration in sport which could lead to change. But he was appalled at the discriminatory system in South Africa, under which the majority of the population lived, because they were black, and the corresponding poverty and fear that prevailed. The tour caused a bitter split in the country.

Hiwi suggested that protests be called off in exchange for the final test being cancelled and replaced with a day of prayer for South Africa. Neither the rugby union or the anti-apartheid groups accepted his proposal. Some years later, Hiwi said he had been in a no-win situation. It was hard for him personally as a keen rugby supporter and being the head of the Race Relations Office.

Hiwi believed that a national consensus could be achieved only when Pākehā truly understood the essence of Māori culture. He oversaw the development of marae courses for public servants, and large businesses were encouraged through their Human Resources departments to move away from a monocultural approach. He left the Race Relations Office after 6 years, saying the job was very stressful and he did not want an early tangi. In 1987 he stood unsuccessfully for the National Party in the Eden electorate.

Tainui Stephens, one of his Race Relations Office staff, and later an independent film and television producer, director, and writer, said that Hiwi believed that the best way to combat ignorance and prejudice was through education. Tainui thought that he was well fitted to be a Race Relations Conciliator: ‘He was not an angry man. He was a naturally diplomatic kind of guy, yet had the capacity to set his jaw, dig his heels in, and rark his voice up a bit. He was a gentle speaker, wove stories, and laughed a lot. So, when he got serious, you knew it. Focused, punchy sentences that made the point’. Tainui noted that on the wall of Hiwi’s office he had the framed words: ‘Oh Great Spirit, help me to walk a mile in my neighbour’s moccasins’.

He saw the mutual benefit in closer cultural relations between New Zealand and China and established the NZ China Māori Friendship Association in 1984 at the bequest of Rewi Alley. Hiwi worked as secretary on Māori Treaty issues in the office of Minister Doug Graham for some years.

Hiwi had been working on a book and this was published in 1989 by William Collins Ltd. The title was ‘Healing the Breach. One Maori’s Perspective on the Treaty of Waitangi’.  The book was Hiwi’s thoughts, in simple layman’s language, about the issues that needed to be dealt with in New Zealand in terms of race relations. On the back cover of the book, besides his iwi ancestry, Hiwi also acknowledged his Cornish links, from his maternal grandfather’s side of the family.

In 1989 he took up a senior research fellowship in the Māori Studies section of the Auckland University’s Anthropology Department and returned to his home base in Kaeo. In 1990 he was appointed chair of the Runanga o Whangaroa and chair of Te Mangai Paho.

Hiwi was also at one stage an elected member of the Auckland Regional Council, a Board member of the New Zealand Sports Foundation, the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, the United Nations Indigenous Peoples’ Trust Fund, the Mental Health Foundation and the Te Tai Tokerau Māori Trust. He was a member of the Te Patunga Marae Committee too. Hiwi was a Methodist lay preacher, a Justice of the Peace, and was made, in 1994, a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG). His wife Pat was awarded the CNZM in 1999.

Hiwi Tauroa and his whanau at the unveiling of the street sign named after him, 1 December 2018. Photo: supplied to the New Zealand Herald

Tuakau College in 2011, dedicated their new gymnasium to Tauroa and his whanau. Hiwi, their first Principal, was the person who gave the school its identity in the early years, the school motto, Poi rawa atu i nga mea katoa, (the very best in all things), and its logo. His last public outing was at the Paerata Rise opening, near Pukekohe, on 1 December 2018, where a street had been named after him - Hiwi Tauroa Rd - to commemorate his important contribution while Principal of Wesley College. He died 10 days later on 11 December at the age of 91 and was buried on ancestral land near the Te Pātūnga Marae in Whangaroa. Hiwi was survived by his wife of 60 years, six children,16 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Hiwi Tauroa will always be remembered in the years to come as a champion of education, as a rugby player and coach and as the courageous Race Relations Conciliator who loved rugby with a passion but opposed, as a matter of principle, the 1981 Springbok Tour of New Zealand. In addition, he made a major contribution to many organisations as shown above. He was truly one of Hawera High School’s most distinguished alumni. As the tribute by Te Karere TVNZ said ‘He will be remembered as one of the most dynamic and distinguished leaders of our time’.

By Ian Stockwell, Head Boy 1963

Photo credit for the cover image of this story:

Race Relations Conciliator Hiwi Tauroa (2nd left) and former Auckland Mayor Colin Kaye (3rd left) leading an anti-apartheid march through Auckland, 11 September 1981.

Photo: The Dominion Post Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, EP/1981/3091/21a-F, http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=40401


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