Mataatua elder and Māori leader Maanu Paul has played a critical role in the Government's direction on New Zealand's water rights and for more than half a century has contributed to the advancement of Māori.
He was honoured this week for his work by being made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to Māori.
“It was through the high thoughts of those before me that appointed me this gift. So I thank the many who supported me for this,” he told Te Ao reporter Regan Paranihi at the investitures ceremony on Tuesday.
Paul was a long-serving member of the New Zealand Māori Council which aimed to accomplish what was set out in the State-Owned Enterprises Bill.
“There we built the foundation where Māori received authority such as, 'Nothing in this act shall be contrary to the Treaty'.”
Paul was a negotiator for the council in the Māori fisheries claim which led to the 1992 Deed of Settlement.
He also provided support for the Wai 262 claim concerning the protection of Māori taonga relating to indigenous flora and fauna.
He says another highlight was, “a trip to London to legitimise our Māori language. The third one was the fish and the most recent one was the water. The saying goes, I am the water and the water is me.”
He sees the fruits of his labour in others working to make change today.
“Those who came under heat from what we did like Kereama and others. We worked hard to lay down a pathway for them to walk in our footsteps so they could pave the way for our grandchildren.”
Paul played a lead role in the establishment of the Mātaatua Rangatahi Court at Wairaka Marae in Whakatane, and continues to volunteer his time to the court.
He is a community leader who has advocated passionately for the interests of his iwi, hapū, whānau and te ao Māori.
A main focus of his now is caring for his mokopuna.
“I have more than twelve grandchildren. I have more than nine great-grandchildren. So I am a very wealthy person at this time.”