Over the next few days the well known whakatauki or proverb - Kua hinga he totara i te wao nui a Tane (A totara has fallen in the forest of Tane) - will be mentioned in whaikorero in the rohe of Te Arawa.
The whakatauki is used to indicate when someone of importance has died. Like the mighty totara which takes hundreds of years to grow. For a totara to fall is a great tragedy.
Rawiri Te Whare who died on Sunday from diabetes was a well respected man both in Te Ao Maori (the Maori world) and Te Ao Pakeha (the Pakeha world).
He was the chief negotiator for Te Arawa during their Treaty settlement deal with the Crown, in 2009.
For more than 20 years, Rawiri worked on behalf of 11 affiliate Te Arawa hapu to resolve their historical Treaty claims with the Crown.
During my time as the Maori affairs reporter, I got the opportunity to meet Rawiri. He was a gentle and quietly spoken man who always found time to sit down and talk to me. Rawiri was never a man who would run from a tricky situation but instead sit down and discuss it, and try to find a solution by listening to both sides of an argument.
A classic example of this was during the Treaty settlement process, in 2006. Te Arawa had reached a settlement with the Crown. However, the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations of the time, Sir Michael Cullen, approached Rawiri asking for his help. For the Government to resolve the forestry issue in regards to Kaingaroa Forest, Te Arawa would have to separate their forestry component of their settlement while this issue was resolved.
Rawiri, always a shrewd negotiator, could tell without Te Arawa holding off their settlement process, many iwi including Te Arawa could be held up for years trying to resolve the issue. He told Sir Michael, "I am not going to deny an opportunity that I have always believed in - but it will be at a cost".
His passion for his iwi Ngati Tahu/Ngati Whaoa can be traced back to his aunty Ruhia Oketopa. As a child he would listen to her concerns about how land was slowly slipping out of Maori control.
Later on in life, Rawiri would become more involved in the affairs of his iwi, joining the Kaingaroa claims process and further on from that, Te Pumautanga o Te Arawa as the chief negotiator. He would be instrumental in securing a deal worth more than $85 million as well as an apology from the Crown. He would be recognised in 2009, for his work to Maori, with the Companion of New Zealand Order of Merit, an award, just below a knighthood. In 2010, his iwi also recognised his contribution with a chieftainship.
Rawiri was a great man whose legacy will be forever etched in the history of Te Arawa. Farewell friend. Anei he whakatauki; He kotuku rerenga tahi - A white heron flies once.