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Tā (Sir) Haare Williams: A courageous advocate of authentic Treaty Partnership

  • Tā Haare Williams and former Rūnanga Chair Tui Ah-Loo
    Tā Haare Williams and former Rūnanga Chair Tui Ah-Loo

As the country prepares to observe Waitangi Day, Te Whare Wānanga o Wairaka is celebrating a formidable leader who was instrumental to embedding its commitment to honoring Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

9 February 2023

The tireless dedication and passion of Tā Haare Williams (Tūhoe, Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki) has forged pathways and provided opportunities for Māori that his generation could only dream of.

In recognition of his achievements, Unitec’s former Dean of Māori Education and inaugural Pae Ārahi has been named a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori, literature, and education.

This well-deserved accolade highlights his talent as a teacher, author, poet, historian and pioneer Māori broadcaster.

Taa Haare Williams joined Unitec in 1994 and worked alongside Tā Te Ahikaiata (John) Turei, Takutai Wikiriwhi and Hare Paniora to develop the principles of Unitec’s Te Tiriti o Waitangi partnership agreement, Te Noho Kotahitanga.

Since its introduction Te Noho Kotahitanga has guided and strengthened Unitec’s ability to provide a unique student-centered approach to learning through embracing manaakitanga and ngā tikanga o te ao Māori.

Tā Haare credits his kuia Wairemana for nurturing and instilling his ability to interweave education and Māori history through storytelling, literature, poetry, and art.

He believes the words and stories of te ao Māori are ‘tāonga’ that maintain tikanga and whakapapa throughout the ages.

“These taonga are what I want my mokopuna to inherit, I want them to understand the healing power of whenua, moana, ngahere and te reo.”

In 1999, as he sat beside Te Waiunuroa o Wairaka, Tā Haare composed the waiata “Tu Ana Ahau” , which acknowledges the whenua and whakapapa connections to the land Te Whare Wānanga o Wairaka rests on. The words of the waiata provide detail of iwi connections and tūpuna Māori who lived in or near the area dating as far back as the 12th century.His lifetime achievements extend well beyond Unitec and he has helped pave the way forward for many who have followed him.

In 1978, Tā Haare was appointed general manager of Radio New Zealand’s Māori station, Te Reo o Aotearoa. His work with Matiu Rata led to the radio station being the first broadcaster in the country to release the announcement of the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal. He later went on to become general manager of Aotearoa Radio, where he helped kick-start the careers of multiple Māori broadcasters.

He played a key role in establishing a joint venture with South Seas Film and Television School to train te reo Māori speakers as producers and camera operators.

With his vast knowledge and leadership ability, Tā Haare has supported iwi claimant communities with their claims, utilising storytelling and Māori traditions of oral literature to explore narratives of journeys, failures, triumphs, losses, and gains embodied in whakapapa.

His first book ‘Words of a Kaumātua’ was released in 2019, detailing his childhood and the issues stemming from inequality in New Zealand. It won te reo Māori category of the 2020 Society of Authors’ Heritage Book Awards.

While Tā Haare believes New Zealand is providing a higher quality education than many other countries in the world, he says there is still a long way to go.

“The education system betrayed Māori in the past because it has never told the truth of our colonial history and what our ancestors endured. For the same reason it has also betrayed Pākeha kids. While small steps are being taken to include our history, its not enough and there is much more work to do.”

Unitec’s current Pae Ārahi and close friend, Hare Paniora says Tā Hare is an inspirational, living and breathing exemplar of Te Noho Kotahitanga in action His humility will always be at the forefront, and I am so grateful and blessed to have been associated with him over the past 30 yrs.

“Ko ia tētahi o ngā tino kaitiaki o tō tatou reo, tō tatou hītori hoki, ahakoa kua eke ia ki ngā taumata ikeike kua pūmau tonu tana ngākau māhaki ki tangata kē, ahakoa ko wai. Ko āna wakaritenga katoa kua  hāngai tōtika atu ki te whāinga  kia tū rangatira ai tō tātou reo me te mātauranga Māori mo ake tonu atu.”

(He has dedicated his life to te ao Māori and despite his amazing achievements he has always maintained his humility, kindness and respect for others. His certitude and dedication opened doors and forged pathways in broadcasting, the arts and education for generations of Māori and many more to come.)

Tā Haare Williams is continuing to champion education and authentic Treaty partnership in the hope that his mokopuna and generations to come are finally able to experience the education and equity they deserve.