Page 1: Biography
Hīmona, Richard Tahuora
Ngāti Kahungunu; farmer, community leader
This biography, written by Peter James Himona, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2000. It was translated into te reo Māori by the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography team.
Richard Tahuora Hīmona was born at Te Ore Ore, near Masterton, on 7 September 1905. He was the son of Arapata Hīmona, a farmer, and his wife, Wirapeti Mīkaera of Hāmua, a hapū originally of Rangitāne descent, but through intermarriage by the nineteenth century often regarded as a hapū of Ngāti Kahungunu. His maternal grandfather, Tūtohengārangi Ākuhata Mīkaera, was an early minister of the Rātana church in Wairarapa.
Dick Hīmona (also known as Tiki Arapata and Dick Albert) was educated at Te Ore Ore School and later at Masterton District High School and Hikurangi College at Clareville, Wairarapa. During his early adulthood he played rugby for the Red Star Rugby Club in Masterton. While shearing at Temuka he met Rīria Fowler, of Ngāi Tahu. Dick brought her back to Te Ore Ore, where they were married on 5 March 1929 by the Rātana minister, Īnia Heketā Mānihera. No children were born to the couple, but in 1930 they adopted five children from two of Dick’s sisters. In 1938 another sister died and it had been her wish that Dick and Rīria raise her eight children. In all, they raised 15 children.
Alongside his concern for his family, Dick Hīmona worked tirelessly to improve the welfare of Māori in the Te Ore Ore community, where he farmed, and throughout Wairarapa. In 1930 he became a member of the Te Ore Ore School committee. The school had a large roll and catered mainly for Māori children in the area. He was to serve on the committee for 21 years. In 1936 the district officer of the Department of Education appointed him an honorary child welfare officer to assist in matters concerning the Māori people. The work covered housing, education, social life and counselling. He also appeared in the Magistrate’s Court as an attending officer, providing assistance on adoptions and succession orders. His extensive knowledge of whakapapa was particularly useful in establishing the identity of Māori trust beneficiaries.
As chairman of the Te Ore Ore Tribal Committee, Hīmona was responsible for several successful fund-raising campaigns. When the meeting house Ngā Tau e Waru was burned to the ground in November 1939, he instigated various activities to finance the building of a new house. He also acted as guarantor for the money to pay for the carving. The initial stage of the new house was completed in 1940, and in the early 1960s Hīmona organised the construction of a second stage. During the Second World War he led the Te Ore Ore Tribal Committee in raising funds for the troops overseas and for prisoners of war. The committee provided food parcels and knitted goods, and after the war Hīmona arranged the welcome home for the returning troops.
As a welfare officer Hīmona witnessed the appalling living conditions of some Māori families and began a 20-year crusade for improved housing for his community. He was responsible for remits being forwarded through the tribal committee to the Wairarapa Tribal Executive Committee and to the Department of Māori Affairs, which led to the department giving financial assistance for eight new houses in Te Ore Ore. Having observed that state houses being built in Wairarapa were not made available to Māori, he brought the matter to the attention of government departments and from 1961 houses were allocated to Māori.
Hīmona was chairman of the Wairarapa Tribal Executive Committee for 31 years. During this time he presented a report to the Department of Māori Affairs, outlining ways of improving the social, educational, health and economic position of Wairarapa Māori. As a long-standing member of the Pāpāwai and Kaikōkirikiri Trusts Board, he was responsible for overseeing the distribution of funds for the education of Ngāti Kahungunu children. In 1959 he was appointed a delegate to the Ikaroa District Council and in 1963 he became a foundation member of the New Zealand Māori Council, serving until 1964. In 1962, with the mayor of Masterton, he launched the Wairarapa appeal for funds for the Māori Education Foundation, of which he was a member.
In 1962 Hīmona was made a justice of the peace. He was appointed to the Monsignor Moore Education Trust board in 1970 as the representative of the Māori people. In 1974 he appealed to the public for funds to buy a Lindauer painting of Te Retimana Te Korou, a prominent Wairarapa chief. The painting was purchased at auction and is part of the collection of the Wairarapa Arts and History Centre.
Dick Hīmona was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal in 1976 for services to the community. He died at his home on 7 August 1984 and was buried in the Ahitianga cemetery at Te Ore Ore. Rīria Hīmona died in 1987. As an elder of Te Ore Ore and Wairarapa, Hīmona’s work to benefit Māori made him a highly respected member of the community and a Māori representative of the district.