Story: Hakiwai, Reremoana

Page 1: Biography

Hakiwai, Reremoana


Rongowhakaata and Ngati Porou; cook, community leader

This biography, written by Arapata Hakiwai, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2000.

Reremoana Paratene was born at Manutuke, near Gisborne, probably on 3 February 1889, the youngest of four children. Her mother was Hera (Sarah) Ngaikiha Halbert, whose parents were Keita Kaikiri of Ngati Kaipoho, a hapu of Rongowhakaata, and Thomas Halbert, a trader and whaler from England. Her father was Paratene Tatae, a farmer of Rongowhakaata and Ngati Porou. Paratene’s father, Te Warihi Potini (Pototi), was an uncle of the Rongowhakaata leader Te Kooti. Reremoana’s brother Moana became a well-known sportsman on the East Coast.

As an infant Reremoana was adopted and brought up by Tamati Pewhairangi of Tokomaru Bay. There she learnt the ways of her people, caring for visitors, preparing and cooking food, weaving and being instructed in the customs and traditions of her elders. In 1905, at the age of 14, she was sent to Hukarere Native Girls’ School in Napier. The motto of Hukarere, ‘Kia u ki te pai’ (Cleave to what is good), greatly impressed Reremoana and throughout her life she strove to live by it. Her admiration and respect for Hukarere was to carry on into later years; she often entertained Hukarere girls in her home, her daughters Ngaikiha and Ruruhira went there, and she helped to support the school. In 1975, at the centennial, she was one of the oldest living pupils and became patron of the Hukarere Old Girls’ Association. Te Aute College was also very important to Reremoana because of its reputation for educating Maori leaders and its close relationship with Hukarere. Reremoana’s son Te Aranga (Ara) attended, as did many of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

After leaving school Reremoana returned to Manutuke. Her elders soon chose a husband for her. He was Mare Nepe Apatu, an engineer, the son of Nepe Te Apatu and Amiria Te Takou (Ropiha) of Waipawa, both leading local families of Ngati Marau, Ngati Parakiore, Ngati Rangitotohu and Ngati Kere. Reremoana and Mare Nepe Apatu were married on 24 June 1913 at Manutuke. Families from Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and the East Coast attended. The couple lived at the Nepe Apatu homestead beside Te Tapairu pa and had three children.

During the First World War Reremoana entertained and collected money for the troops at the pa and in the surrounding district. She also entertained the soldiers at Pukeora Sanitorium, Waipukurau, and served on the Red Cross committee.

After only seven years of marriage, Mare Nepe died on 1 November 1920, aged 32. Reremoana’s life now centred on her daughters, her son and her work in Waipawa. Her son died relatively young. She continued to live with her hospitable mother-in-law, Amiria. She worked as a cook in a shearing gang, catering for about 40 people, mostly Maori, some of whom had their wives and children with them. The Maori shearers provided the potatoes and kumara, and the station owners the meat. Reremoana often travelled by horse and gig to the shearing sheds after picking up others in the gang. Although the work was long and hard the shearers became a very close-knit group. She also befriended runholders and their families, and swaggers. During the depression she grew vegetables and worked wherever she could. Although a strong Anglican, she often went with Amiria’s family to the Ratana celebrations held in January every year.

Reremoana enjoyed sports. She had played hockey for many years and attended hockey tournaments around Hawke’s Bay, largely at marae such as Waipatu, Moteo, Bridge Pa, Te Hauke and Omahu. She also played golf, and met her second husband on a golf course.

On 2 April 1934, at Kahukuranui meeting house on Omahu marae, Reremoana Apatu married Pene Rungaahi Te Uamairangi Hakiwai of Omahu, Fernhill, a widower and an Anglican minister. He had been called in to help with the New Zealand Maori (Pioneer) Battalion in 1917, and on his return home became the chaplain of the Moteo and Waipatu Maori pastorates. Pene Hakiwai was of Ngai Te Upokoiri, Ngati Hinemanu and Ngati Hinepare on his father’s side, and of Ngati Porou on his mother’s. Reremoana often travelled with Pene on church business and helped in the many activities and functions of the church. Sadly, Pene died a year later, on 27 October 1935, leaving Reremoana with a son. During the Second World War she worked at J. Wattie Canning Limited in Hastings at night and in the fields during the day.

Reremoana’s mana derived from her compassion for people and her determined will to look after and educate her family. Throughout her life she was active in the community. She was a foundation member of the Te Awapuni Women’s Institute (the only Maori women’s institute in Hawke’s Bay) in 1929, a member of the Women’s Division Federated Farmers of New Zealand, Fernhill, from 1947, a founding member and leader of the Maori Women’s Welfare League in 1951, and a founding member of the Maori Education Foundation in 1960. The Reremoana Hakiwai Memorial Trophy is presented every year at the Ikaroa Maori speech contest held by the Maori Women’s Welfare League.

Reremoana could move comfortably between Maori and Pakeha worlds, creating lasting friendships and associations. She gave freely of her time, helped those who were less fortunate, and was a gracious and generous host. Her residence at Omahu was home to many people; this was the Maori custom and she was very proud of it. Affectionately known as ‘Aunty Rere’ or, in later years, as the ‘nanny’ of Omahu pa, she was often seen at hui, welcoming and entertaining her guests. Her 90th birthday celebration, held at the Omahu marae, was attended by hundreds. Reremoana Hakiwai died at Hastings on 8 March 1981 at the age of 92 and was buried at Omahu cemetery, Fernhill. About 1,600 people came to pay their respects.

How to cite this page:

Arapata Hakiwai. 'Hakiwai, Reremoana', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 2000. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 6 July 2020)