June 14, 2017
Watene a guide between two worlds
The late Eastern Maori MP Steve Watene is being remembered as someone who could walk in both the Maori and mainstream worlds and used that to help fellow Maori adapt to life in the cities.
A memorial was held in parliament today for Mr Watene, who died 50 years ago during a hearing of the Maori affairs select committee.
Former Department of Maori Affairs deputy secretary Neville Baker encountered him first as a superb athlete and organiser running rugby league tournaments, and then from his work in the community while running the hostel for workers at the Gear meatworks in Petone.
"He'd worked out that to be successful managing young people, and that is what he was doing at the Gear Meat hostel, it was about the 24 hours in the day. You provided work, you provided a place to sleep, which was the hostel, and also you filled the leisure period and he did that with things like rugby league and sport, and providing people with the ability to apply for housing in Maori Affairs and employment, took an interest in education," he says.
Mr Baker says even though he was Mormon rather than Ratana, Steve Watene was the popular choice when the Eastern Maori seat became vacant because of his skills with people and his ability to negotiate the two worlds.
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