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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Friday, April 13, 2007

Filmaker, actor, mentor Don Selwyn dies age 71

Kau hinga tetahi totara i te wao nui a Tane.

Maoridom today lost one of its tallest trees.

Actor, singer, teacher and filmmaker Don Selwyn died of kidney failure today in North Shore Hospital, 40 days after he was admitted with a knee infection. He was 71.

His sister, Ivy Paho, says Mr Selwyn was from far north iwi Te Aupouri, but was born and raised in Taumaranui.

He trained as a teacher, and developed as a performer with kapa haka groups and with the New Zealand Maori Opera Company.

His credits as an actor included the television series Pukemanu and The Governor, Sleeping Dogs, Goodby Pork Pie, Came a Hot Friday, and as producer and director, The Maori Merchant of Venice.

Mrs Paho says her brother made sure any doors he opened stayed open for other Maori.

“ He was very passionate about young Maori and their talent, and that’s what his work was, when he ceased from being the actor or the entertainer, he made a concerted effort about bringing through the skills of young Maori,” Mrs Paho says.

Don Selwyn's body will be taken back to his family in Taumarunui.


The Ngapuhi runanga and Northland District Health Board want to improve water quality at the region's marae.

They are co-hosting a wananga on the issue at Kaikohe tomorrow.

Arthur Harawira, the runanga's hapu development coordinator, says with more than 100 marae in Tai Tokerau, it's not practical to visit each one.

Mr Harawira says the water systems at many marae can't cope with the demands being placed on them.

“In most areas there is no equipment, so a lot of the water that comes to marae is either straight from the ground or straight in or straight off the roof into the tanks. For vast numbers that attend marae, the need to have a better quality drinking supply has been the focus for the Northland District Health Board,” Mr Harawira says.

Marae are increasingly a part of civil defence strategies, so a secure water system becomes extremely important in times of crisis.


The late Maori queen Dame Te Ata i Rangikaahu will be remembered tomorrow with the inaugural presentation of a nursing scholarship bearing her name.

Waikato Institute of Technology created the scholarship for a nursing student of Tainui descent.

Anna Carter, Wintec's public relations manager, says it will be an emotional day for all concerned.

“It's extremely meaningful for Wintec. Dame Te Ata was much loved. She was interested and involved and had been on our campus on numerous occasions and so it’s very exciting that tomorrow the inaugural scholarship will be awarded, and each year another scholarship will also be offered to a student who is from Tainui,” Ms Carter says.

The first recipient will be Te Unuwai Kapea of Ngati Haua.


The late actor, director and filmmaker Don Selwyn is being hailed as an ariki whose contribution to New Zealand's arts was never fully appreciated.

Mr Selwyn died shortly after 1 this afternoon in the critical care unit of North Shore Hospital, where he had been for 40 days. He was 71.

Entertainer Sir Howard Morrison, who worked closely with Mr Selwyn over the years, was at his bedside this morning.

Sir Howard says with little support, Mr Selwyn blazed a path for other Maori to enter the film and television industries.

“His contribution has never really been appreciated. The magnificent Merchant of Venice, of what he did to Maori, was something that has never been done by any filmmaker in this country, white or brown, and will live on as his masterpiece,” Sir Howard says.

Don Selwyn's family says he will be taken back to Taumarunui, where he grew up.


The Government will work with Maori and other groups of care givers to develop a national strategy for people who provide care for sick or disabled family members.

Carers NZ, a coalition of 39 national charities, held a summit in Wellington yesterday and today to discuss issues within in the sector.

Disability Issues Minister Ruth Dyson says Maori form a distinct group in the care sector, and this has been recognised by the umbrella organisation.

“That is really important because we cannot accept that one cultural fit is appropriate to all New Zealand families so there will inevitably be other groups that pop up within the alliance as well, but the first to put their hands up is Maori representation, and that’s really good news,” Ms Dyson says.


Water Safety New New Zealand is working with the Kohanga Reo National Trust to distribute a kit aimed at cutting drownings among children under five.

Maori Water Safety Project manager Mark Haimona says the kit, Te Takaro Haumaru i te Wai or safer play near water, was developed in association with Tainui kohanga reo teachers and kaumatua.

He says too many Maori children drown because they are in the water without any adult supervision.

“Generally speaking most under fives usually drown in and around the home. It has been quite rare in the last five to 10 years that under fives have drowned in the open water. It’s usually in and around the home. It’s probably based around supervision. It’s leaving children near water to play,” Mr Haimona says.

In the most recent statistical period 44 percent of the under fives who drowned were Maori.


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