Story: Paikea, Tapihana Paraire

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Paikea, Tapihana Paraire

1920–1963

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

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

Tapihana (Dobson) Paraire Paikea, known as Dobbie, but registered at birth as Poata Paikea, was a great-great-grandson of the paramount Te Uri-o-Hau chief Paikea Te Hekeua. As such, he had his roots deep in Tai Tokerau and was related to many of the leading tribes of Northland, including Te Roroa, Te Parawhau and Ngati Whatua. He was born at Rangiatea, Tinopai, Kaipara, on 26 January 1920, the eldest child of Hinerupe Paraone Meinata and her husband, Paraire Karaka Paikea, who became a Methodist minister that year and later an influential Ratana leader and MP. Both parents were leading participants in the affairs of Te Uri-o-Hau, an independent tribe associated with the wider Ngati Whatua people.

Educated initially on tribal territory at Tanoa Native School, Otamatea, Paikea later moved to Ratana pa with his family. In 1933 he was a foundation pupil of a crowded Ratana native school. He also attended Wanganui Technical College. Possibly due to his father’s influence, Paikea secured a clerical position in the Native Department in Auckland. On 4 October 1942, at Orakei, he married Raiha Kamira, daughter of Tekau (Karu) and Rina Kamira of Te Ihutai hapu of Kohukohu, Hokianga. They were to have nine children.

After his father’s unexpected death on 6 April 1943, Paikea, who had acted as his secretary, was elected as a Labour member to his seat of Northern Maori at the age of 23. His maiden speech focused on the great social and economic successes of the Maori war effort, Maori cultural pride and the need for equal treatment of both Maori and Pakeha – particularly with regard to wages and social security benefits. As an Auckland-based Maori MP he also immediately became involved in the difficult problems of Maori shifting to urban centres.

Paikea early sought to encourage his constituents to petition Parliament over Treaty of Waitangi breaches, and there was a significant increase in the number of Tai Tokerau petitions to Parliament over the next five years. He also supported the establishment of a royal commission of inquiry into outstanding Tai Tokerau land claims, calls for which resulted in the constitution of a long-awaited surplus lands commission under Sir Michael Myers (1946–47). With Paikea’s help, a Tai Tokerau regional committee was set up to prepare evidence for that inquiry. The commission ultimately recommended payment of £61,307 compensation. A regional settlement in favour of the Tai Tokerau Maori Trust Board was not supported by Paikea, who sought direct settlements to affected hapu.

During the life of the Labour government to 1949 Paikea focused on raising awareness of pressing Maori socio-economic problems. In 1945 he raised issues of Maori representation on district rehabilitation committees and the repeal of the Maori Councils Act 1900. The following year he sought more Maori broadcasting than just the news in Maori. He worked closely with the Native Department in securing land to house Maori freezing workers at Moerewa and urban Maori at Panmure, in Auckland, but he failed to save the Mangere Maori Workers’ Camp from closure. Ever conscious that the increasing demand for urban Maori housing outstripped supply, he argued that timber on Maori reserves should be used exclusively for Maori housing purposes. Paikea urged the training of more Maori doctors and nurses, particularly in mental health. In education, he raised problems of access to Maori schools at Tanoa, Tangiteroria and Waipoua and sought extensions to an overcrowded Motatau Maori school. In endeavouring to secure greater government protection for toheroa, he unsuccessfully sought compensation to Muriwhenua Maori for the wartime destruction of toheroa beds at Ninety Mile Beach. He also drew attention to the destruction of Orakei seafood by urban Auckland sewage, and supported Ngati Whatua’s long quest for their own marae at Orakei.

In opposition from 1949 to 1957, Paikea relentlessly highlighted the National government’s inability to reduce Maori housing waiting lists, pointing out that post-war Maori were living in fowl-houses, disused stables and market garden shacks. He also drew public attention to the racial discrimination which was common in housing, employment and hotels in Auckland (although he did not speak out against Maori sporting contacts with South Africa), sought more Maori wardens to police hotels, and pleaded for greater tolerance and understanding between Pakeha and Maori.

In issues affecting Maori land he supported the abolition of the paternalistic Maori land boards and in 1954 presented a petition from Kereama Waiti of Ngati Whatua and 379 others asking that the Treaty of Waitangi be embodied in the statute books of the nation. While still an officiating Ratana minister who took a keen interest in Maori youth and social affairs, he became a member of the Owairaka Tribal Committee, engaged in fund-raising for a New Lynn marae and sat on the Tai Tokerau unclaimed moneys district committee.

On Labour being returned to government in 1957, Paikea was appointed chair of the Maori Affairs Committee and held the position until 1960. Jovial and well-liked, he was a huge man (six feet four inches tall) and was often teased about his size in Parliament. Ill health and family commitments affected his later years and his parliamentary speeches and appearances became shorter. He died at Oneriri, Kaiwaka, Kaipara, on 7 January 1963, survived by his wife, Raiha, seven daughters and two sons. He was buried with his father and ancestors at Kakaraea cemetery, Otamatea. Although Paikea was referred to as ‘the worthy son of a worthy father’, his parliamentary career never matched that of his father.

How to cite this page:

Garry Hooker. 'Paikea, Tapihana Paraire', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 2000. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/5p6/paikea-tapihana-paraire (accessed 23 May 2019)