Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Legends of the Maori

Parliamentary Tributes to Sir Maui Pomare

page break page 263

Parliamentary Tributes to Sir Maui Pomare

ON July 1st., 1930, in the House of Representatives, the Hon. Mr. Forbes (Prime Minister) moved: “That this House records its high sense of the distinguished services rendered to New Zealand by the late Hon. Sir Maui Pomare, a member of the House of Representatives, and a former Minister of the Crown, and respectfully tenders to his widow the assurance of its sincere sympathy in her bereavement.” Mr. Forbes, after sketching Sir Maui’s life, said: “His administration was throughout marked with ability, and during his term of office he was responsible for many reforms and measures for the betterment of the Maori race in New Zealand and the people of the Cook Islands. Nearest his heart were his own people and their kindred in the Cook Islands, and he did valuable work amongst them when in the position of Health Officer. He first visited the Cook Islands in 1906 to survey the medical condition and needs of the people, and submitted recommendations which afterwards were put into effect with beneficial results. He was also instrumental in bringing about the segregation of leper patients at Makogai. During the Great War he was Chairman of the Maori Recruiting Board responsible for recruiting the Maori Battalion, and he also visited the Cook Islands for the purpose of recruiting the Rarotongan Contingent. Sir Maui was one of the early members of the Young Maori party, holding the view that the Maori had reached a stage in his development when the individual should make an attempt to stand alone and that the old communistic system of the people was not one to be encouraged. In 1920 he was awarded the honour of C.M.G., and in 1922 that of K.B.E. He was an eloquent speaker, especially on subjects connected with the Maori race, and he enjoyed a large measure of popularity and was esteemed by both races. Unfortunately, of recent years he had suffered from ill-health, and some weeks ago left for California in the hope that the change of climate would bring him benefit. He leaves a widow, two sons, and a daughter. It was with very great regret that we heard the sad news of the passing of Sir Maui Pomare. It seemed to be only the other day that he was here in good health, taking his part in the business of the House, and we all felt great sympathy with him when illness befell him. He put up a great fight against an illness that was reducing him very much in strength. Full of hope right up to the last, he took the trip to California in the belief that it would restore good health to page 264 him. Unfortunately, his illness had too great a hold, and he passed away shortly after his arrival at California. I remember when Sir Maui Pomare first entered the House, and I can safely say that during all the time he was here he never failed to take an active part in dealing with all questions affecting the Maori race. We have had many representatives of the Maori race in the House; and one of the facts of which this Parliament is proud is that representatives of that race show such ability and grasp of public affairs. They have taken their part side by side with the pakeha members in maintaining the traditions of the House and have shown themselves to have a knowledge of public questions equal to that of their pakeha brothers. The New Zealand Parliament is indeed particularly proud of the men who have represented the Maori race. In addition to my knowledge of Sir Maui Pomare in Parliament, I had a closer association with him in our earlier days when we went to the same school, and in our Parliamentary days we often spent many enjoyable times in discussing happenings at our old school. I am sure that those who went to school with Sir Maui Pomare will have learnt with regret of his passing. The sincere sympathy of this House goes out to his widow and children in their affliction.”

The Right Hon. Mr. Coates (Leader of the Opposition), in seconding the motion, said: “It is my wish to pay a tribute to the memory of Maui Pomare. Honourable members will realise that he was my colleague and he was my friend. I knew the man and knew the depth of him—the warmth of his nature and his general make-up, and I am but one of many who mourn the loss of Maui Pomare. The pakeha has lost a friend; the Maori, a guide and counsellor. The greater portion of Sir Maui Pomare’s life was given unselfishly to work on behalf of his people, but he was ever mindful of his pakeha people. He was the first Health Officer appointed to administer the Native side of the Department of Health. Many of us can remember that strapping young fellow taking up his duties. With what energy, tact and ability he accomplished almost insuperable tasks only those closely associated with the Maori people and the rugged conditions of the country at that time can realise. By canoe, on horseback, by coach, the young Maori set out to educate his Maori people in methods that would lead to the saving of their race. The older members of this House will remember the concern that was evident among the pakeha population on account of the falling-away in numbers of the Maori race through disease and other causes. The late Sir Maui Pomare’s first duties were to try to train and guide the Maoris into a recognition of necessary reforms and to show them how they could help themselves. Old customs had to be overcome, and a lot of groundwork had to be accomplished, all of which called for the guiding hand of a page 265 man of understanding, knowledge, and extreme tact. The success of the initiation of that policy is now a matter of history, and it is recognised that the success achieved and a large portion of the good work were due to our deceased brother. Sir Maul Pomare’s services as a representative of the Maori race in the Massey Cabinet, and as a responsible Minister in later Administrations, led me to realise that the more one knew of him the more one was able to appreciate the width of vision, the high administrative ability, and the other splendid qualities he possessed. His advice to his friends was of very great value—particularly to myself as Minister of Native Affairs. I shall never forget the help given by him. I do not wish to attribute to the late Sir Maui Pomare the whole of the credit for the work that has been done on behalf of the Maori people. I would like honourable members to know that other representatives of the Native race in this House have been closely associated with my late colleague in the good work that has been done for the Maori race. Maori questions were never treated as party questions by the late Sir Maui Pomare. Working in co-operation with other members of the House, he was able to bring about unanimity of opinion in regard to Native problems, and I believe that the first really important step taken by him was the action of bringing before the pakehas of this country the work that lay ahead. We are all familiar with the work done in connection with confiscated lands, and the claims in respect of the Rotorua lakes—the lakes in the Arawa district. The late Sir Maui Pomare was closely associated with the initiation of these claims, and with the assistance of his Maori brothers in this House these matters have been carried through to a stage where I think the pakeha recognises that unless and until these old takés are put behind us with satisfaction to both pakeha and Maori, we cannot contemplate the future of the Maori and his progress with entire satisfaction. We cannot expect our Maori people to progress as each and every member of this House would desire them to progress until these troubles have been satisfactorily settled. Sir Maui Pomare’s efforts were not confined to his work among the Native race in New Zealand, but extended to their brothers of the Polynesian race in the Cook Islands and Samoa.”

The Hon. Sir Apirana Ngata (Minister of Native Affairs), said: “Reference has been made by the leader of the Opposition to Sir Maui Pomare’s work as a member of the Young Maori party. In that respect he should go down in the history of this country as one of its great pioneers. Perhaps no greater crisis arose in the history of the Maori race than confronted it at the beginning of the present century. We were confronted with the situation of a declining population—a people who had largely given up hope in many respects, and an attitude on the part of the older page 266 generation of scepticism towards the rising young generation who were being educated among the pakehas. I remember well that the late Sir Maui Pomare was one of a band of young men who made up their minds to attempt on a small scale to turn back the hand of time. He set out with a number of friends to penetrate some of the Maori villages, and to attempt to persuade the inhabitants to introduce in the villages the laws of pakeha hygiene. It was then that he made up his mind to study medicine and to take up work as a health officer. We know how successful he was in that. With the assistance of some friends he went to America, simply because the opportunities did not offer in his own country, and he came back to find that opportunity was here awaiting him to begin work as a pioneer, and he, as a prominent member of what was then called the Te Aute Students’ Association, took up the question of sanitation. Others specialized in regard to land matters; others took up the resuscitation of the arts and crafts; others took up religious revival, and BO on. But as notable as any other member of that small band, Maui Pomare—during his life as Health Officer, during his work as the tribal representative of the Taranaki and Otaki Tribes, during his career as a member of Parliament and as a Minister of the Crown—never lost the inspiration that he had when he was at Te Aute College at the end of last century. He should rank among the great men of this Dominion. We are too near to his time yet to be able to assess properly the many characteristics which should entitle him to be called great. Perhaps from a Maori standpoint what made his friends admire him so greatly was the manner in which he held together the many and diverse tribes that composed his electorate. Anybody who knows the divisions of the Maori tribes from Tamaki, south of Auckland, down to Wellington, from Taranaki across to Tauranga, will know that there are about eleven main tribes in that territory, with divers descents, history, and interests. They arrived in this country in different canoes, and necessarily introduced hereditary difficulties and differences—political and religious differences. No man succeeded better than he did in holding together these many and diverse tribes and making them turn their faces forward to follow him in his attempts to bring about progress and reform. He came of fighting tribes—the Ngati-Mutunga and Te Atiawa tribes, which inhabited the coast between the King Country and Taranaki. Those of us who have travelled up and down well know how rugged is the country about the White Cliffs. Just north of the White Cliffs was Te Kawau Pa, occupied by the Ngati-Tama tribe, of which Maui Pomare was a member. There were two brothers, Tupoki and Raparapa, chiefs of the pa a century ago—two warriors famed in Taranaki song and story. No party from Taranaki could enter the King Country unless it passed Te Kawau Pa, and unless it had the page 267 goodwill of the two brothers, and no party from the King Country could pass southwards into the terraced country of the Taranaki coast unless it had the goodwill of Te Kawau Pa, or beat its inhabitants in warfare. It is of that blood that the late Sir Maui Pomare was descended. I cannot conclude my contribution to the tributes that are being paid to his memory this afternoon without quoting these few lines from a poem composed by members of his own tribe:—

Ka whati i reira te puhi o taku waka;
He tumu herenga waka no runga, no raro,
No Te Rauparaha;
Tahurihuri ana te papa ki Rarotaka.

In English they read,—

Then was the plume of my canoe broken;
The anchorage of the fleets from north and south,
And of Te Rauparaha;
The rock at Rarotaka is overturned.

I join with those who have already spoken in extending the. deepest sympathy to Lady Pomare and to the members of her family,”

Mr. Makitanara (Southern Maori District), said: “I have a feeling of respect in connection with the death of one who, ever since he was promoted to the position of member of this House, has proved himself to be a Maori and always a Maori, and has taken up the cause of the Maoris. We are now, according to the Maori point of view of death, in the hands of the goddess of death, that is Hinenuitepo. The Maori in making a speech at the time of death, refers thus: ‘A thrust of a spear can be parried, but the thrust of death cannot be parried.’ We are faced with that position to-day. We have lost one whose passing is mourned by both Islands—yea, by three—by those across at Chatham Islands, by all those who looked upon Sir Maui as the champion for the Maori people. I did not have the privilege of being associated with him as a politician in this House in all the questions dealt with affecting our people; but I have read of, and have studied his work for the Maori people, and I am fully in accord with the statements that have been made by honourable members. It is needless for me to repeat them. I can only add in conclusion, and on behalf of the Maori people of the South Island, that our aroha goes forth to his widow and his family. They are now in the hands of the goddess of death. The tribute of respect that all Maoris pay to one they honour on his departure from this world is, ‘Haere ki te Po, haere ki te Reinga, haere ki te Kainga.’ That is my final offering of sympathy on behalf of the people of the South Island to the late Maui Pomare.”

page 268

The motion was carried and the House adjourned till the following day.

On the same date similar eulogies were uttered in the Legislative Council. The Hon. Sir Thomas Sidey (Leader of the Council), moved: “That this Council records its sense of the distinguished services rendered to New Zealand by the late Hon. Sir Maui Pomare, K.B.E., C.M.G., a member of the House of Representatives, and for many years a Minister of the Crown, and respectfully tenders to his widow and family an assurance of its sympathy with them in their bereavement.” The speaker gave a summary of Sir Maui’s career, and continued: “Sir Maui was an attractive personality and a man of a very generous and genial nature. Very dear to his heart were the Maori people, and also those of the other branches of the Polynesian race, and he was proud of his ancestry. It was not only in relation to the administration of Maori and Polynesian affairs that his work was characterised by ability. He was also a capable administrator in regard to European affairs. He held the portfolio of Health for some three years, and discharged his duties with marked ability. One illustration of his activities in that Department has failed to receive notice in the published references to his death. Honourable members will have noticed the prominence lately given to the subject of maternal mortality. The Hon. Sir Maui Pomare was one of the first to recognise that something should be done to lessen the maternal-mortality rate in this country, and during his administration of the Health Department he authorised the establishment of a hospital which was specially designed for a short course of intensive training of all the maternity nurses and midwives then practising throughout New Zealand. He was also, as is well known, a warm supporter of the Plunket Society. He was a keen debater, quick in retort, and had in a large measure one of the characteristics of his race, the gift of imaginative rhetoric, which made his speeches bright and interesting and, indeed, sometimes very entertaining. I can recall speeches in the other House in relation to his work in the Cook Islands which were extremely interesting, where he gave an outline of the work being done in the way of cultivation of fruits and experiments conducted with a view to producing new varieties. Although we were on opposite sides of the House, Sir Maui Pomare and myself were always on exceptionally good terms, and I was an occasional visitor at his house. He had, as honourable members know, a long illness, which he bore with great fortitude. I saw him about three months ago, and he was then very bright and cheerful and keenly interested in current events. He was watching the political situation, and was specially interested, of course, in anything connected with the Native people and the Samoans. I can only add that his home was a very happy one, and most page 269 hospitable, presided over by Lady Pomare, a charming personality, who took a great interest in her husband’s work. I move the motion, and tender to Lady Pomare and the family my deep sympathy with them in their great bereavement.”

The Right Hon. Sir Francis Bell said: “Sir Maui Pomare was proud of his race, and those who knew him and remember him as all members of Parliament do, understand perhaps better than others why it is that there is equality between the two races in this country. During the sixteen years that he served in one capacity or another as a member of the Executive Council I was by his side, and learnt to know the quality of the man. He struggled manfully against the lack of diligence and persistence which is a characteristic of his race; and he succeeded, though he was always quicker at arriving at a conclusion than most, and free therefore from the burden of constant labour in study of the questions to be decided. Those other characteristics that he inherited of the manner and habit of his race—perfect courtesy, loyalty, and good companionship—he never failed in exhibiting. Sir, there is not one man who has been in these buildings with him who does not remember his cheery, bright and happy way of life. He brought that into the Cabinet Room, and relieved, as I remember well, the dullness of Ministerial labours; and he had in the service he rendered to his race their full recognition. By overwhelming majorities they returned him to Parliament, without failure on any occasion, from the day that he first sought the suffrage of his constituency. The leader of the Council has spoken of his generosity, a marked quality, and again a quality that he shared with the majority of his people; and I fear that it may be too true that that generous habit has prevented him from leaving those whom he loved a sufficient competence. May I not appeal to the Government to remember that and the long service of Sir Maui Pomare when it is called upon to deal, as Government always deals, with the claims of the widow and family of a member of Parliament, and especially of members who have served as Ministers of the Crown? I desire to add a word from his colleagues, of whom I was one. It is true to say that no man is more lamented to-day by those who were his colleagues than my old friend who has gone. He was perfect in the relations which exist between those who serve as Ministers of the Crown. I think the confidence was never broken. The part taken in the business of the nation by him was not small, since a part of the Government of this country is dealing with the affairs of the Native race. But not only in that part of our functions, but in the general affairs of the country it is true to say that the opinions of Dr. Pomare—as he was then—were sought and considered by his colleagues. It was probably not of our public life together that memories were revived when the shock came page 270 of the news of his death. Those of us who saw him before he left on this journey in search of health, wasted from his former splendid powerful figure, but still full of life and vigour of mind, hardly realised that the end could be so near. We spoke of him by affectionate nicknames, lived with him on the terms of intimate friendship, and, with every member of Parliament, are sincerely grieved—more perhaps than others—that we will not see him again. All our sympathy—I feel I speak for the Council—goes out to the charming lady, herself a distinguished member of his race, who went with him in the hope of saving his life, and is now widowed in a foreign land sorrowing over his death. And to his family, too, all our sympathy goes out. And little consolation as it must be in such a loss, such a sorrow, we may hope that the public tribute this Council passes to his memory may be in some sense a mitigation of both sorrow and love.”

The Hon. Mr. Garland said: “On such an occasion as we are faced with to-day it is perhaps right that those of us who knew our departed friend long and well should give expression to our esteem for him and our affection for his memory. I knew him from his early days, and then lost sight of him while he was securing his diploma in America. Maui Pomare then came back to New Zealand, and I ran across him immediately after he was appointed officer in charge of Public Health in the northern part of New Zealand. I watched that man’s career with pleasure, and I cannot express my admiration of his character in better words than have fallen from Sir Francis Bell. There was that geniality and that strong affection which the man inherited and carried with him. One realised in his presence that there was in his being a joy of life and living. I have known the Maori race for sixty years, and I know something of their habits; and I think it is right that I should say here and now that in my judgment Sir Maui Pomare was one of three men—and perhaps he was the greatest of the three—who did more for the Maori race than for any other three men I have known. Those three men were Sir Maui Pomare, Dr. Buck, and Sir Apirana Ngata. They worked hand in hand for the benefit of their people. Sir Maui will long be remembered with gratitude for those things which he was able to teach his own countrymen. In his capacity as a citizen of this country and as a man going in and out amongst us from day to day, we were compelled to admire the manly character of Sir Maui and his joy of life. When I saw him last I was afraid that the day was not far off when we should have to express our sorrow at his passing and our sympathy with those who have been left behind to mourn the loss of a good husband and a devoted parent. As I walked away from him, having had a pleasant chat, which on the part of Sir Maui was full of life and interest in the things that were going on, I could not help calling to mind these words:

page 271

Thou’rt passing hence, my brother!
O my earliest friend, farewell!
Thou’rt leaving me, without thy voice.
In a lonely home to dwell;
And from the hills, and from the hearth,
And from the household tree,
With thee departs the lingering mirth,
The brightness goes with thee.
But thou, my friend, my brother!
Thou’rt speeding to the shore
Where the dirgelike tone of parting words
Shall smite the soul no more!
And thou wilt see our holy dead,
The lost on earth and main:
Into the sheaf of kindred hearts
Thou wilt be bound again!

So, Sir, we have with deep regret and true sorrow in our minds to express to the members of the bereaved family our warmest sympathy with them, and our affection for the man whom we all loved, and whose memory we at this time seek to honour.”

The motion was carried and the Council adjourned.