Story: Paikea, Tāpihana Paraire

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Paikea, Tāpihana Paraire

1920–1963

Te Uri-o-Hau and Ngāti Whātua leader, Rātana minister, politician

This biography, written by Garry Hooker,  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.

Tāpihana (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 Ngāti Whātua. He was born at Rangiātea, Tinopai, Kaipara, on 26 January 1920, the eldest child of Hinerupe Parāone Meinata and her husband, Paraire Karaka Paikea, who became a Methodist minister that year and later an influential Rātana leader and MP. Both parents were leading participants in the affairs of Te Uri-o-Hau, an independent tribe associated with the wider Ngāti Whatua people.

Educated initially on tribal territory at Tānoa Native School, Ōtamatea, Paikea later moved to Rātana pā with his family. In 1933 he was a foundation pupil of a crowded Rātana 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 Ōrākei, he married Raiha Kāmira, daughter of Tekau (Karu) and Rina Kāmira of Te Ihutai hapū 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 Māori at the age of 23. His maiden speech focused on the great social and economic successes of the Māori war effort, Māori cultural pride and the need for equal treatment of both Māori and Pākehā – particularly with regard to wages and social security benefits. As an Auckland-based Māori MP he also immediately became involved in the difficult problems of Māori 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 Māori Trust Board was not supported by Paikea, who sought direct settlements to affected hapū.

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

In opposition from 1949 to 1957, Paikea relentlessly highlighted the National government’s inability to reduce Māori housing waiting lists, pointing out that post-war Māori 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 Māori sporting contacts with South Africa), sought more Māori wardens to police hotels, and pleaded for greater tolerance and understanding between Pākehā and Māori.

In issues affecting Māori land he supported the abolition of the paternalistic Māori land boards and in 1954 presented a petition from Kereama Waiti of Ngāti Whātua and 379 others asking that the Treaty of Waitangi be embodied in the statute books of the nation. While still an officiating Rātana minister who took a keen interest in Māori youth and social affairs, he became a member of the Ōwairaka 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 Māori 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 Kākāraea cemetery, Ōtamatea. 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, Tāpihana 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 29 October 2020)