Dame Nganeko Minhinnick led environmental stewardship and kaitiakitanga in the Auckland and Waikato region. Her loss will be sorely felt amongst her people of Ngāti Te Ata and Waikato iwi.
Dame Nganeko was a formidable presence who spent her lifetime advocating for environmental issues. She spearheaded the Manukau claim which was heard in 1985 and challenged the effects of development on the health of the Manukau harbour.
Consequently Dame Nganeko was also a leader in achieving policy and legislative change that provided for Māori aspiration. The Manukau claim highlighted the lack of regard that the Town and Country Planning Act had for Māori concepts and values such as mauri and kaitiakitanga which have since become commonplace in modern environmental practices.
Some would attribute the strength of her advocacy to the inclusions of such concepts in the Resource Management Act.
She was a mother, a grandmother a matriarch for her whānau and people of Ngāti Te Ata, growing up for most of her life in Waiuku near the Manukau harbour and the Waikato River. Nganeko fought long and hard to see the protection and care of wāhi tapu impacted by Glenbrook Steel Mill.
In recent times Dame Nganeko had been invited to address several indigenous forums to share her perspectives, experience and encourage other indigenous groups to take a stand for social, cultural and environmental justice.
Dame Nganeko was supportive of the Kīngitanga and a recognised leader amongst the tribe. She is survived by several children, mokopuna and whānau who have grown under her mentorship.