Page 1: Biography
Himona, Richard Tahuora
Ngati Kahungunu; farmer, community leader
This biography, written by Peter James Himona, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2000.
Richard Tahuora Himona was born at Te Ore Ore, near Masterton, on 7 September 1905. He was the son of Arapata Himona, a farmer, and his wife, Wirapeti Mikaera of Hamua, a hapu originally of Rangitane descent, but through intermarriage by the nineteenth century often regarded as a hapu of Ngati Kahungunu. His maternal grandfather, Tutohengarangi Akuhata Mikaera, was an early minister of the Ratana church in Wairarapa.
Dick Himona (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 Riria Fowler, of Ngai Tahu. Dick brought her back to Te Ore Ore, where they were married on 5 March 1929 by the Ratana minister, Inia Heketa Manihera. 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 Riria raise her eight children. In all, they raised 15 children.
Alongside his concern for his family, Dick Himona worked tirelessly to improve the welfare of Maori 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 Maori 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 Maori 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 Maori trust beneficiaries.
As chairman of the Te Ore Ore Tribal Committee, Himona was responsible for several successful fund-raising campaigns. When the meeting house Nga 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 Himona 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 Himona arranged the welcome home for the returning troops.
As a welfare officer Himona witnessed the appalling living conditions of some Maori 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 Maori 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 Maori, he brought the matter to the attention of government departments and from 1961 houses were allocated to Maori.
Himona was chairman of the Wairarapa Tribal Executive Committee for 31 years. During this time he presented a report to the Department of Maori Affairs, outlining ways of improving the social, educational, health and economic position of Wairarapa Maori. As a long-standing member of the Papawai and Kaikokirikiri Trusts Board, he was responsible for overseeing the distribution of funds for the education of Ngati 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 Maori Council, serving until 1964. In 1962, with the mayor of Masterton, he launched the Wairarapa appeal for funds for the Maori Education Foundation, of which he was a member.
In 1962 Himona was made a justice of the peace. He was appointed to the Monsignor Moore Education Trust board in 1970 as the representative of the Maori 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 Himona 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. Riria Himona died in 1987. As an elder of Te Ore Ore and Wairarapa, Himona’s work to benefit Maori made him a highly respected member of the community and a Maori representative of the district.