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Friday, September 14, 2007

Bishop Whakahuihui Vercoe dies

There's mourning today in the Anglican Church for a former Bishop of Aotearoa and Archbishop of New Zealand, Whakahuihui Vercoe.

Archbishop Vercoe, who died in Rotorua last night aged 79 after a long illness, was ordained in 1952.

He served two spells overseas as a military chaplain, in Malaya from 1961 to 1963 and South Vietnam in 1968 and 1969.

This year he filed a claim with the Waitangi Tribunal on behalf of Maori Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange.

The current bishop of Aotearoa, Brown Turei, says Archbishop Vercoe was always willing to speak his mind ... as he showed in 1990, when he led the service at commemorations for the 150th anniversary of the signing of the treaty.

“When he spoke at Waitangi in front of the Queen and made that world shattering statement about his people being marginalized, that didn’t go over too well with the Government of course, but that’s Hui Vercoe and if a thing needs to be said, he will say it,” Bishop Turei says.


Maori Party leader Pita Sharples says the death of Archbishop Whakahuihui Vercoe will be felt wider than the Anglican Church.

The pair were often colleagues and competitors through their shared passion for the traditional Maori performing arts.

Dr Sharples says the archbishop will be remembered for his knowledge of the Maori world, and his outspoken views.

“Forthright man. One may not have agreed with all his views. At least he was consistent with them and a good leader and wonderful pathfinder for us and he’ll be sorely missed, not only by the church but as a kaumatua and leader and elder on the marae,” Dr Sharples says.

Whakahuihui Vercoe is lying in state tonight at Houmaitawhiti Marae in Rotoiti.

He will be taken at first light to his birthplace at Torere in the eastern Bay of Plenty.

No reira i te rangatira, takoto mai, takoto mai, moe mai.


Outstanding contributions to Maori Language Week are being honoured in Wellington tonight.

Among the 40 finalists are Diagnostic Medlab, the Auckland Kindergarten Association, Pacific Island radio station Niu FM, dance station George FM ... and Radio New Zealand, Tourism Bay of Plenty and the Ataahua Bed & Breakfast in Christchurch.

Lana Simmons-Donaldson from the Maori language commission, Te Taura Whiri, says it was tough judging because of the high standard of entries.

“Oh it's just amazing some of these things and the bar is definitely higher this year and the people, to win, they’ve had to be really outstanding in their categories, and quite interesting and we’re really happy that over 64 percent of entrants this year were first timers,” Ms Simmons-Donaldson says.

Today is also the anniversary of the 1972 presentation to Paliament of the petition seeking formal recognition of te reo Maori.


The late Whakahuihui Vercoe is being remembered as someone who was not afraid to be a prophet.

Archbishop Vercoe died in Rotorua yesterday of cancer at the age of 79.

Canon Hone Kaa from St John's Theological College was mentored as a preacher by bishop Vercoe.

He says Maori have lost a fine leader who was willing to speak out on issues of social justice and the Treaty of Waitangi.

“When he made his now very famous statement, ‘you have marginalised us.’ He said ‘you have not honoured the treaty.’ It had a tremendous impact on everybody, not just at Waitangi, but throughout the nation. Nobody does this when the Queen is present, but here was this bishop, prepared, to be a prophet and critique the government of the day,” Dr Kaa says.


And one of Whakahuihui Vercoe's former comrades in arms says the former army padre had a big impact on Maori service people.

Bob Newson, a prominent lay member of the Maori Catholic Church, says Bishop Vercoe showed the same bravery in speaking out on issues of social justice as he did the battlefields of Malaya and Vietnam.

“He had a lot of influence, a lot of steadying influence on a lot of the soldiers that went to Vietnam and also in training in Malaysia. He’ll be a sad loss and we certainly will miss him and we extend our sympathy to the family,” Mr Newson says.

Whakahuihui Vercoe is at Houmaitawhiti Marae in Rotoiti, from where he will be taken tomorrow to his birthplace at Torere in the eastern Bay of Plenty.


A veteran film director says Maori filmmakers are on the cusp of a new era.

Barry Barclay from Ngati Apa today hosted a scriptwriters' workshop on maintaining rangatiratanga in Maori storytelling, as part of the Festival of Maori Writing.

The director of Ngati and Feathers of Peace says new funding from the Film Commission and new technology is changing Maori filmmaking.

He says it is getting easier to take the filmmaking out to where the stories are, rather than being bound by the studio.

“Some of the scripts are located right in one specific area, Matamata’s one of them, so what does that mean? We perhaps can make it there, involve the local community, and make it their taonga as well, rather than just a generalised film that came out of New Zealand,” Mr Barclay says.

Tonight Eagle vs Shark producer Ainsley Gardiner and director and presenter Te Arepa Kahi host a panel on Maori in film and television at the Wellington City Gallery Theatre.


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