From the CEO A walk down memory lane

Jun 29, 2021

Chief Executive Officer,
Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu
Arihia Bennett

For the past nine years I have brought this column to you in a way that has reflected the day-to-day reality of my multigenerational whare in Tuahiwi.

Recently we bid farewell to our dearly loved father, William Ruwhiu QSM, who was the centre and life-force of our whānau. With his effervescent personality he would begin each day with “mōrena” and when I would ask “how are you today”, his cheeky reply would be: “Well, I’m still alive.” Dad was a quick-witted social character who easily brought humour to any situation. It was easy to see how he could build rapport with anyone as he made you feel like you were a star no matter who you were.

As I look to the months and years ahead it will be these moments that I will cherish forever knowing that our whānau choice to live together, looking out for one another, in essence was the right thing to do. In a full household of three to four generations there is bound to be a wide range of views and in our home we would all make sure our opinions were heard, but it was usually our mother who would have the last say.

We will miss the many stories that our father would tell us about growing up on the East Coast, or life as a freezing worker on the “chain” before making that infamous journey into the world of teaching.

Through the eyes of a child, life seemed easy growing up. Back in the 70s our parents would every now and then host a party at the weekend, we would spend long summer days at the beach (apart from Sundays when we went to kapa haka with Uncle Tip and Aunty Myra followed by a boil-up at Te Rangimarie before we headed home), and every other spare moment was taken up with sport.

Our parents seemed to love working and dad always had several jobs – maybe that was because they had to pay for all those private school fees. Still in the 70s they had a bright idea to buy the corner dairy which is where we learned the work ethic and built our own whānau tribal economy as we all had to play our part in the store. This lasted well into the 80s, and after the freezing works closed and the dairy was sold, dad turned into the reo speaking “E Pā”. No-one was exempt from the Ngāti “coming out” and watching our native-speaking father find his natural place is something that has touched many, far and wide.

His legacy is deep, personal, and far-reaching as even years after “Pā Tosh” retired from Hato Ōpani he would always have visitors at home. Teachers would bring their classes out for a visit while former students would bring their whānau. Dad thrived on the interaction; he loved to see the language flourishing and he was gifted in the art of whaikōrero. He loved life at Tuahiwi where we were all together and would always give thanks to our mother for being the whānau architect.

These words capture a heartfelt walk down memory lane – everlasting experiences that now set the scene and shape the next phase for our whānau in Tuahiwi.

To our Narn and Pop

Thank you.