Story: Paikea, Paraire Karaka

Page 1: Biography

Paikea, Paraire Karaka


Te Uri-o-Hau and Ngati Whatua; Methodist minister, Ratana leader, politician

This biography, written by Angela Ballara, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1998.

Paraire Karaka Paikea was the great-grandson of Paikea Te Hekeua, a prominent chief of Te Uri-o-Hau and Ngati Whatua. His father was Karaka Eramiha Paikea, and his mother was Tuhi Hariru Maihi, daughter of Wereti and Hopera Maihi, also of Ngati Whatua. Paraire was born at Otamatea, Kaipara, probably on 1 June 1894. After winning a scholarship at a native school, he was educated at St Stephen's Native Boys’ School (1907–9) and at Wesley College at Three Kings, Auckland (1910–1915), where he was dux in 1914. He played rugby for his school, and later for Ngati Whatua.

Paraire Paikea trained for the Methodist ministry, and was already a probationer when he married Hinerupe Paraone, daughter of Paraone Meinata and Taruke Hemana, at Otamatea on 19 June 1918. He was stationed at Otorohanga from 1919 and ordained minister in 1920. In 1921 he was granted a year of rest from his ministry but remained a gazetted minister of the Methodist Church until 1925. By this time he had become attracted to the teachings of Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, the religious visionary and faith healer.

Paikea began to take a prominent role in the Ratana movement in 1924. He was appointed to the first Ratana federation's council set up before Ratana’s departure on his world tour, with responsibility for health matters. He assisted in the preparation of the petition which Ratana took to the United Kingdom in 1924. Paikea was still stationed in Northland at this time, and was responsible for liaison with all the movement's district and local committees. In September 1924 a meeting of the federation's council demanded that he come to Ratana pa to do his work, or else return all the books and papers associated with it. However, in January 1925 he was still in Northland, authorised to receive the signatures of those who wished to become morehu (members of the federation) at Otamatea.

In June 1925 the Ratana church and its ministers (including Paikea) were gazetted; in this way he severed his formal connection with the Methodists. In 1926 he was elected to the committee of management of the new federation, with special responsibility for the district committees of Northland; eventually he was also secretary of the federation. By May 1927 he was living with his family in Ratana pa. He was included in a list of those who had resigned as ministers authorised to perform marriages, but remained as a minister in other respects.

From 1928 Paikea was propelled into the political side of the Ratana movement. By July of that year the Mangai (Ratana) assumed the name Piri Wiri Tua for his political campaigning. At the same time he was talking of dividing his body into four koata (quarters), a way of expressing his decision to have Ratana candidates in the four Maori electorates. By October 1928 Paikea had been chosen to stand for the Northern Maori seat. Like all Ratana candidates, he was required by the Mangai to sign a covenant that he would dedicate himself entirely to obtaining a parliamentary seat, take no bribes or payment for his work, and work for the Maori people as a whole, rather than for any one tribe or district.

Paikea was required by the Mangai, in this and subsequent elections, to campaign for the redress of grievances arising from breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi, and for Maori autonomy. As part of his adherence to this policy Paikea took special responsibility for the grievance of Ngati Whatua over the ongoing land losses at Orakei in Auckland. By 1929 Paikea had taken over from Pita Moko the role of private secretary to the Mangai. He accompanied Ratana to Wellington in May to petition the government for help to clear the debt on the land around the Ratana settlement, and later in the year accompanied him in the same role on visits to Northland, Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa, Whakatane and Tauranga.

By 1930 Paraire Paikea was one of the Tokowhitu (Committee of Seven), then the executive body of the Ratana federation, and in 1931 he was again candidate for Northern Maori. He took part in negotiations between the Labour and Ratana parties, but in the 1931 election Ratana candidates continued to stand as independents, though endorsed by the Labour Party. Paikea received 2,109 votes to Tau Henare's 3,297. The Ratana party's strong showing meant that negotiations continued with Labour; Paikea interpreted for Harry Holland, the Labour Party leader, when he visited Ratana pa on 4 April 1932. By that time Paikea was deputy chairman of the executive committee of the federation. After Eruera Tirikatene's election to Southern Maori in a by-election in August 1932, Ratana sent his son, Toko, and Paikea to Wellington to assist Tirikatene as his secretaries and to gain political experience.

Paikea divided his time between this work and the federation's activities at Ratana pa, one of which was the formation of the Ratana brass band, named by Ratana, Te Reo o Te Mangai; Paikea was its first trainer and conductor. As it gained in expertise this band was to appear around the country at many events: sporting and political, royal visits and tangihanga. He also conducted the Ratana Morehu Silver Band founded in 1935, and organised sporting events at Ratana pa.

Although Paikea failed in his bid for the Northern Maori seat in 1935, the strong showing of the Ratana candidates encouraged the Labour Party to invite them into the movement. Paikea became a New Zealand Labour Party member on 2 April 1936 and attended the party conference that year. He was appointed secretary to the party’s Maori Organising Committee and played a significant role in the Ratana takeover of the Maori section of the party. He built up a network of Maori branches through the membership of the Ratana organisation. The Maori Organising Committee also sought to shape Labour policy in the direction of Ratana aims. Paikea interpreted for the Mangai at the historic meeting with Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage on 22 April 1936 in which the formal relationship between the two parties was established.

In 1937 the Maori Organising Committee of the Labour Party changed its name to the Maori Advisory Council; this move came in conjunction with an effort to reduce Ratana control of the Maori section of the party. Paikea survived a challenge to his position as secretary, but Rangi Mawhete, a non-Ratana, was appointed president in place of Tirikatene. Some Europeans were also appointed, curtailing Paikea's power to influence the council towards Ratana policies. Despite some debate, he was selected to contest Northern Maori in 1938 and he defeated Tau Henare by 2,011 votes.

Paikea was a popular MP. Fluent in English, he was a dynamic source of support for Tirikatene on such questions as Maori health and housing. Automatically a member of the Native Affairs Committee, he shepherded various petitions through it. Many of his efforts outside Parliament were directed towards finding a solution for the Maori of Orakei, whose lands had been reduced to a 2½-acre reserve. He was still secretary of the executive committee at Ratana pa, and divided his time between there and Wellington. He was no longer secretary of the Maori Advisory Council, but continued to be a member.

The outbreak of war in 1939 heralded the most important phase of Paikea's career. He supported the demand to set up a volunteer Maori battalion officered by Maori, and hoped that conscription would not be forced on the Maori people. With the other Ratana members and Apirana Ngata, Paikea helped to set up informal organisations to assist the war effort, but it soon became clear that a formal organisation was needed. Towards this end, in December 1940 Prime Minister Peter Fraser decided to appoint a Maori as a member of the cabinet. Paikea was appointed member of the Executive Council representing the Maori race on 21 January 1941.

Paikea had already been formulating plans for an organisation to co-ordinate the Maori war effort, and he presented these on 13 March. He then journeyed around the country to sell the idea to tribal leaders, and on 9 May his plans were approved by cabinet: a voluntary system of recruitment to mobilise Maori men and women for essential industries, and Maori men for military service, either at home or abroad in the 28th New Zealand (Maori) Battalion.

For four months in 1942 Paikea was minister in charge of the Maori war effort, and he set up what came to be known as the Maori War Effort Organisation. Over 300 tribal committees were given responsibility for finding manpower for essential industries and recruiting for the armed forces; as the war progressed more functions were added, so that Maori felt that for the first time they were being permitted to bear real responsibility for their own affairs.

Paikea's organisation was not universally admired; some other Maori authorities, then usually staffed by Pakeha, complained that it was undercutting their own war efforts and taking credit for them; staff of the Native Affairs department were among them. By December 1942 tribal executives and committees were already functioning across the country; funds were being collected, extra supplies of food contributed to the war effort, and personnel allocated to essential industries.

Early in 1943 Paikea was working with Tirikatene and others on plans to convert the Maori War Effort Organisation into a peace-time organisation that would allow Maori to control their own affairs. On 2 April 1943 he left Wellington to visit the leader of the Ratana church, Toko Ratana, in hospital. He was on his way back to Ratana pa when he suddenly became ill and was taken to a private hospital in Wanganui. He died of acute gastro-enteritis on 6 April 1943. At least some Northland Maori believed that he had been the victim of makutu. He was brought to Ratana pa, where he was mourned by its people and by prominent politicians. His body was then taken north, the cortège calling at Ngaruawahia and Orakei. He was buried on 15 April 1943 beside his parents. Paikea was survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

Paraire Karaka Paikea died before he could reach his full potential, but he had made a substantial mark. The title 'Piri Wiri Tua' had been conferred on him after the Mangai's death; it reflected his status as the political leader of the Ratana–Labour alliance. Paikea was followed in the Northern Maori seat by his son, Tapihana Paraire Paikea.

How to cite this page:

Angela Ballara. 'Paikea, Paraire Karaka', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1998. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 6 August 2020)