June 14, 2017
Watene memorial for life of service cut short
A memorial event has been planned in parliament's Maori affairs select committee room for former Eastern Maori MP Steve Watene, who died in office 50 years ago.
Manurewa MP Louisa Wall says memories of Mr Watene are still strong in the Labour Party, the union movement, and in rugby league.
After coming to prominence as captain of the New Zealand rugby league team for three tests in 1936 and 1937, Mr Watene played an important role helping rural Maori come to terms with city life.
During the 1951 Waterfront Lockout he toured tribal districts to discourage Maori from strike-breaking.
He served in both the Mount Wellington Borough Council and the Petone Borough Council as well as on the Labour Party national council before being elected to parliament in 1963.
He died during a select committee hearing on significant changes to the Maori Affairs Act that led to a tide of land sales.
"It really is about an acknowledgement of service and that service that was cut so short. He was very young when he passed away and I can image the scenes in the select committee. He was questioning somebody and he was very staunch about Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the retention of our Maori lands," Ms Wall says.
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