July 10, 2023
Kara Puketapu helped Māori stand tall
Tributes have been flowing for Ihakara Puketapu, the far-sighted public servant who responded to the quickening pace of the Māori revival by enabling Māori to stand tall.
Dr Puketapu died on Friday and is lying at Waiwhetū in Lower Hutt, the marae and village established by his father Īhāia and others in Te Ati Awa who wanted a place for their people to gather in Whanganui a Tara.
His studies in the United States, including a Harkness Fellowship studying urban ecology at the University of Chicago and doctoral study in anthropology in New Mexico, opened his eyes to a wide range of possibilities.
On his return to New Zealand he rose through the public service, eventually landing at the State Services Commission where he was tasked with reviewing the Department of Māori Affairs amidst a revolt by Māori staff demanding it come under Māori leadership.
He was handed the job as secretary and with the support of his minister Duncan MacIntyre, set out his vision of community-based Māori development under the Tū Tangata banner.
Some of the innovations from that time included kohanga reo, building on work done in Wainuiomata by his late wife Jean, and kōkiri centres which formed the basis for more substantial initiatives such as Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.
Te Ati Awa ki Whakarongotai Charitable Trust says he leaves an irreplaceable, and his legacy will continue to inspire generations to come.
The nehu for Kara Puketapu is tomorrow, and he will be buried at his homestead of Taumairangi in Wainuiomata.