Pat Heremaia - a man of great mana and champion for Maori education and rights

Updated: Oct 8, 2019

HHS Alumnus Patrick John Heremaia 1942 - 2016


Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Rauru, Ngāti Hine

Patrick John Heremaia was born in Patea, the son of Ephraim Jack Prime, born Mangakahia, Ngati Hine of Ngapuhi and Josephine Waiwata Taiaroa. Her father was Hohepa Taiaroa, born Whangaehu but of Ngāti Tuwharetoa descent. He was married to Miri Te Ngaio Kahukaka of the Ngarauru. Pat was adopted at birth by his mother’s eldest sister, Rene Huia Taiaroa and her husband Hoani Heremaia, a prominent elder of Ngāti Ruanui (Taranaki). The Prime family were very musical, their most prominent member being Pat’s brother Dalvanius Prime of ‘Poi E’ fame who, with other family members were part of the renowned Patea Maori Club. Patrick too inherited the music gene.

Pat Heremaia made a major contribution to Maori education; and to his own iwi, Ngāti Ruanui, through his crucial role in the successful conclusion of negotiations with the Crown, and to the wider community

Pat, as he was known to everyone, was educated at Kakaramea Primary School, and had his secondary schooling at Hawera High School 1957 – 1960 where he excelled, both academically and in sporting activities. In 1957 and 1958 he was first in his class overall with his strongest subjects being English, Social Studies, General Science, Maths and Art.  In 1958 he was a member and in 1959 Captain of the HHS South 4th Grade Rugby team which won the South Taranaki 4th Grade Championship. In 1959 he finished second overall in his fifth form class with first place in both Geography, and General Science, passing the School Certificate exams.


In 1960, his fourth and last year at HHS, he was accredited University Entrance, a member of the First XV and Shooting teams, elected a School Prefect and awarded the Des Forges Cup for outstanding Maori Student. My memory of him at HHS, as I was a pupil for several of the years he was there, was of someone greatly respected and liked by both pupils and staff.

Hawera High School First XV Rugby Team 1960 Pat Heremaia, middle row, second from right

Hawera High School Shooting Team 1960 Pat Heremaia, back row, last on right

From HHS he went to Wellington Training College 1961 – 1962, where he gained a Teacher’s Diploma and TTC. Pat then embarked on his teaching career and taught at Ratana Pa, Mt Albert Grammar, and Tapuwera District High School. Like many of his age he went overseas and was a teacher in London at the Green School and Rowan Girls’ High School. West Africa became the destination, Pat taught as a senior teacher for two years at the Anglo-America Diplomatic School (Escola Inglesa De Luanda) in Angola, and then was appointed Principal at the school for two years.


In 1975, he returned to New Zealand and taught at Henderson High School for one year and was a teacher at Green Bay High School where he was appointed Head of Department, Māori Studies. From 1986-1996, he was principal of Hillary College. Pat became a member of the New Zealand Māori Council and the Auckland District Māori Council, and in 1983 was appointed to the Multicultural Advisory

Committee of the PPTA and formed the Māori committee. In 1984, Pat attended two education hui: the National Hui on Māori Education convened by the New Zealand Māori Council at Turangawaewae Marae and the New Zealand Post Primary Teachers’ Association’s first Māori Education Hui held at Waahi Marae.


Pat Heremaia was not afraid to challenge the education establishment. He tackled the Ministry of Education on the issue of Māori being allowed to stand alone as a subject rather than marks being adjusted according to intrasubject compatibility. In 1984, Māori was designated the same status as English as a subject. He was a member of the Curriculum Review Committee. From his experiences in Angola, Pat was very aware of the role of education systems in the colonisation of people, and wrote remits that were passed at the NZ Māori Council; these were concerned with a parallel education system run by Māori to look after the Māori schools from preschool to whare wananga. He was one of the pioneers in the establishment of school marae, the first of which was built at Green Bay School. Others were later established at polytechnics, training colleges and universities.


Pat was chair and main negotiator of the Ngāti Ruanui Muru Me Te Raupatu working party, from 1997, dealing with the Crown over their land claims, for South Taranaki, under the Treaty of Waitangi. He had to work with 16 hapu to find an agreed position to start the negotiations with the Crown. This required great skill, diplomacy, and patience given the complex issues involved. Negotiations were successfully concluded in 2002 with an apology, cultural, financial and commercial redress, including a $41 million cash settlement for Ngāti Ruanui.


He had, from an early age been interested in family and tribal genealogy and history. And in the last decade of his life Pat did extensive research, and published his findings on Family Tree Maker, into the Heremaia, Prime, Black, Rongonui, Pokau / Atau, Kershaw families, and the iwi associated with his family - Ngāti Ruanui, Ngarauru, Ngapuhi, Ngāti Tuwharetoa and Tainui. He also researched the 28th Maori Battalion as an uncle, Corporal George Wiremu Pokau, had died at Monte Casino. Pat was the founder and first President of the West Auckland Historical Society and at one time President of the Spina Bifida Association.


Pat and his family lived on Scenic Drive, Titirangi, and the decision of the Kaurilands School to name their school hall ‘Te Patrick Heremaia Whare’ was a public affirmation of the high regard in which he was held. After a very full life, Pat died 23 May 2016, leaving his wife Jocelyn and two children, Nigel and Moringa, and moko Sharn and Tahlia. He was buried, with other family members at the Te Moengaroa Urupa, near Pariroa Pa Kakaramea, where he had lived as a child. His son Nigel died 24 September 2018, at 43 years and was also buried there.


Green Bay High School said, in a public tribute May 2016:

“It is with great sadness that the Green Bay High School community acknowledges the passing of our Kaumatua and Teacher Pat Heremaia. From the establishment of the school in 1973 to the present, Pat was a much loved and respected member of our community both as a teacher and kaumatua. He was a professionally committed and effective teacher and was instrumental in, and the driving force behind, the establishment of the school's marae in the 1970s, which was acknowledged at the time as a radical innovation in education. His mana and contribution to the life and culture of the school was hugely valued, including his thoughtfulness, sensitivity to others, and his quiet humour. We will miss Pat, dearly, and pass on our aroha and condolences to his loving wife, Jocelyn, children and whanau pani.”

Pat Heremaia was proud of his Ngāti Ruanui, and South Taranaki links including his secondary school education at Hawera High School. He was undoubtedly a person with great mana, who it was a privilege to have known. Pat made a major contribution to Maori education; and to his own iwi, Ngāti Ruanui, through his crucial role in the successful conclusion of negotiations with the Crown, and to the wider community.


Cover photo credit to Green Bay High School https://www.greenbayhigh.school.nz/kaumatua-pat-heremaia/

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