March 18, 2022
Sir Wira Gardiner: Life of service to country and Māori
Sir Wira Gardiner, one of the most dominant figures in Māori development in the past three decades, has died at home with his family in Gisborne after a lengthy illness.
He was 78.
In accordance with his express wish that public health be prioritised and the demands on frontline workers be recognised, there will be no tangihanga at the marae.
Sir Wira was born in Whakatane in 1945 and had whakapapa to Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Pikiao, Te Whakatōhea and Te Whānau ā Apanui.
He spent 20 years in the New Zealand Army, including service in South Vietnam, and was the army’s highest-ranked Māori officer when he retired in 1983 as lieutenant colonel.
He joined the public service, initially as national director of Civil Defence and then running programmes for the Māori Affairs Department.
He was eventually appointed to head up its successor organisations, the Iwi Transition Agency and the Ministry for Māori Development.
After stepping down in 1985 he started the consulting firm Gardiner & Parata, offering Māori advice to other public sector agencies.
He was called on by successive governments as a trouble shooter, including most recently being appointed interim chief executive at Oranga Tamariki.
He wrote several books, including histories of the 28 Māori Battalion, a record of the Fiscal Envelope controversy, and a biography of Parekura Horomia.
In 1989 he was made a Knight of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his contribution and services to Māori.
Sir Wira is survived by his wife Hekia Parata and his five children.
Nō reira, e te rangatira e Harawira Tiri Gardiner, moe mai rā.