Page 1: Biography
Reedy, Hānara Tangiāwhā Te Ōhakī
Ngāti Porou leader, farmer, soldier
This biography, written by Maraki Tautuhi Orongo Reedy and Miria Hine Tapu Te Ariki Walker, 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.
Hānara Tangiāwhā Te Ōhakī Reedy (commonly known as Arnold Reedy) was born on 16 August 1903 at Whareponga, a somnolent seaside village on the East Coast of the North Island. He was the eldest of 10 children of Materoa Ngārimu, an ariki of Ngāti Porou, and her husband, John Marshall Reedy. Materoa’s mana was such that she often spoke for the tribe on important ceremonial occasions, a traditional duty usually reserved for men. John Reedy was the eldest son of Thomas Tyne Reedy, an Irishman who settled in Ruatōria and married Mihi Takawhenua Ngāwiki Tūhou. Arnold’s hapū included Te Aitanga-a-Mate, Te Whānau-a-Rākairoa and Te Aowera. He was an Anglican and maintained strong religious beliefs throughout his life.
Arnold Reedy was scholarly by nature and possessed a sharp and enquiring mind. He attended the primary school at Whareponga and completed his secondary education at Napier Boys’ High School and Gisborne High School. He then worked for his father, a progressive farmer at Hiruharama and a successful owner and trainer of thoroughbred racehorses. It was at the presentation of the inaugural Fergusson Gold Cup at Makaraka racecourse in Gisborne that Reedy was called upon to make his first speech in public.
As Reedy was growing up, he spent many long and cherished hours under the tuition and strict discipline of tribal kaumātua, from whom he learned the customs, traditions and history of Ngāti Porou and the Māori people. He mastered the art of whakapapa, and could trace and recite the genealogy of many families back to their common ancestors in the migration from Hawaiki. He was regarded as an authority on waiata and mōteatea (laments) and loved the rich imagery and the accurate chronicling of events that went into their composition. Some of his waiata and haka, such as ‘Taumarumaru’ and ‘Pōhiritia e te Tairāwhiti’, are regarded as classics and are still widely used.
On 23 December 1926, at Hiruharama, Reedy married Ruby Tuakana White, of Te Whānau-a-Ruataupare and Te Aitanga a Hauiti. They had six daughters and four sons. During the Second World War, Reedy and his first cousin, Te Moananui-a-Kiwa (Moana) Ngārimu, served in 28 (Māori) Battalion. Reedy rose to the rank of captain but was captured on Crete in May 1941, spending the next four years as a prisoner of war. During this time he learned that Moana Ngārimu had been killed in action and awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, and of his mother’s death as the result of a motor accident.
After the war Reedy returned to farming at Hiruharama, where his increasing involvement in Māori concerns saw him accepted as a leader by Ngāti Porou. Reedy was at heart a traditionalist who adhered to the principles of his cultural heritage. Like Apirana Ngata, however, he realised the importance of acquiring Pākehā skills and using them to serve the social, economic and cultural needs of his people.
He soon became involved with the New Zealand Labour Party, and his ability and sturdy independence of mind so impressed the prime minister, Peter Fraser, that in 1947 he was appointed to a number of royal commissions on Māori land grievances. The most important concerned the disposal of lands found to have been purchased illegitimately prior to 1840. Some of these surplus lands had subsequently been resold by the Crown, and the commission was to determine compensation for their original owners. The chairman, Sir Michael Myers, recommended £15,000; Reedy and the commission’s third member recommended £61,307. When this was not accepted by the government, Reedy resigned from the Labour Party. The government agreed to the larger figure in 1953, making payments to the Tainui Māori Trust Board and the Whakatōhea Trust Board and establishing the Taitokerau Māori Trust Board.
Reedy’s chief sporting passion was rugby. He served as chairman of the East Coast Rugby Union for several years and was its delegate to the New Zealand Rugby Football Union. He was a member of the NZRFU Māori Advisory Board from 1949 to 1951 and was co-manager, with Ralph Love, of a New Zealand Māori team which toured New Zealand in 1952. He helped organise a match between this side and a New Zealand team in honour of the governor-general, Lord Freyberg, in Wellington in July 1952. An address delivered by Reedy to the delegates of the NZRFU’s council in 1952 resulted in the inclusion of Māori representation on that body, even though many of the delegates had been instructed by their unions to vote against the proposal. Reedy declined the position in favour of his close friend, Love.
Reedy served as a member of the New Zealand delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in New York in 1949. He unsuccessfully contested the Eastern Māori seat for the New Zealand Social Credit Political League in 1957 and 1960, and for the New Zealand National Party in 1963, 1966 and 1967. He was chairman of the Horouta Tribal Executive from 1956 to 1970, and a member of the New Zealand Māori Council and the Tairāwhiti District Māori Council. In 1953 and again in 1963 he participated in planning the Māori side of Queen Elizabeth II’s visits to New Zealand.
In the late 1960s erosion was becoming a major problem on the East Coast, and though he welcomed the advent of forestry as a potential solution, Reedy feared that in time it would engulf good arable land. He became a member of the East Cape Forestry Steering Committee and was instrumental in the establishment of what became known as the ‘Blue Line’. So called because it was coloured blue on maps, it protected arable land by restricting afforestation to specific land classifications.
Reedy’s eloquence in and mastery of both the English and Māori languages marked him as one of the leading and most respected orators of his time. He became much sought after to speak at hui throughout the country. In 1962 Reedy was invited by King Korokī to welcome the governor-general, Sir Bernard Fergusson, and his wife to Ngāruawāhia. The elders of the Ringatū church invited him to be a speaker at their centennial celebrations in July 1968. In 1969 he was unanimously selected by the Tairāwhiti District Māori Council to be spokesman for the Māori people at the official function for the James Cook bicentenary celebrations in Gisborne.
During his declining years Reedy loved nothing better than to impart the knowledge he had gained to aspiring Ngāti Porou leaders. Among these young men were Koro Dewes, Apirana Mahuika and Reedy’s nephew, Tāmati Reedy.
In 1969 Reedy was made an OBE for the significant contribution he had made to his community, to Ngāti Porou and to Māoridom. After a prolonged illness he died in Gisborne on 8 April 1971, survived by his wife and children. He was taken home to Hiruharama, where he is buried in his family cemetery, Tūrangarāhui, a windswept knoll overlooking flats that are still farmed by the Reedy whānau.