Dr Huirangi Waikerepuru
‘I want everyone in New Zealand to have the same opportunity I have had – of speaking Māori and English equally well.’
Huirangi Waikerepuru was a key figure in the campaign to gain state support for the revitalisation of te reo Māori.
The claim lodged under his name with the Waitangi Tribunal (WAI11) led to the language being recognised in law as a taonga of the Māori people that was guaranteed to them by the Treaty of Waitangi. Te reo was declared an official language under the Māori Language Act 1987 and the Māori Language Commission – Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori – was established.
Huirangi Waikerepuru was of Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Ruanui descent. He was raised by his elders at Te Hāwera, Taiporohēnui and Ōhangai.
Awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Waikato in 1995, he was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2014 and given a lifetime achievement award at the Māori Language Awards in 2016. He was a life member of the Tertiary Education Union and a kaumātua of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions.
Huirangi Waikerepuru was a courageous individual who inspired many people to speak te reo Māori in everyday life.