Earlier this week, Te Ao Hangarau helped to honour and farewell the Honourable Te Ururoa Flavell from his roles as Maori Development Minister and Member of Parliament for the Maori Party.
As is her style, Helen Leahy pulled together something incredible in a matter of days - the pouarahi for Te Putahitanga o Te Waipounamu put out the call on Friday for the poroporoaki. Come Monday (2 October) we were helping set up our shared whare for the gathering.
No doubt about it - it was a pouri evening.
But it was funny too; that's our way, isn't it? The tari at 10 Show Place was filled with waiata, laughter, stories and the event - scheduled from 6pm to 7pm - didn't wrap up until after 9pm. True Maori styles.
One after another, the people of Te Waipounamu stood to honour Te Ururoa in their own way; each one had a story specific to them, their whanau and their communities. From Otepoti to Te Tau Ihu, the Samoan and Pasifika community, nga maata waka Maori - it seemed like everyone felt connected to Te Ururoa - the man, not just the politician.
For us at Te Ao Hangarau, the man and the politician were equally influential.
Hori first met Te Ururoa 20 years ago. He was 13 going on 30 at a high school in Christchurch East and this man from up north had just asked the class "What is being Maori?" Of course, the smartarse kids replied with "being on the dole!" and worse versions of negative stereotyping. And Hori reckons, this made Te Ururoa really angry.
What he told the class that day about what it means to be Maori, and what he has shown them and the rest of Aotearoa in the 20 years since, is something that stuck with Hori. As he said in his korero to Te Ururoa, it's partly thanks to him and his mahi that Te Ao Hangarau exists. Our collective is partially funded by the Ka Hao: Maori Digital Technology Development Fund, set up by the Minister, Te Puni Kokiri and MBIE to stimulate Maori participation in ICT and digital technology sectors.
Literally, our interns can thank Te Ururoa for their jobs. If that isn't making good on political promises, we don't know what is.
We can't word it better than Helen Leahy did on Monday night. As the former Chief of Staff for the Maori Party, she probably knows the Minita better than any of us.
"Thirteen years ago, you stood with 1000 others, to celebrate Dame Tariana as she won Te Tai Hauauru by election, meaning the Maori Party was in the House. You did much more of course… you were instrumental in writing the party constitution; in organising the party policy, mobilising a movement and in September 2005 you were elected MP for Waiariki.
Your first utterances in House were a powerful clue as to how you might act as our Minister, when you referred to the last words of Mokomoko, a chief of Te Whakatohea, as he was about to be hung at Mount Eden gaol on 17 May 1866.
"Tangohia te taura i taku kaki, kia waiata au i taku waiata".
Take the rope from my throat so I may sing my song.
And from that moment your song has been bitter-sweet, your korero uplifting and yet challenging, a voice for the people."
Te Ururoa Flavell - you might be done in office, but you'll always be the Honourable to us. We will keep our kaupapa alive.