Masses assemble on to Tapuaekura Marae to farewell Sir Toby Curtis

By Peata Melbourne

Tears flowed today for Te Arawa rangatira Sir Noble Toby Curtis, who passed away on Wednesday. He was 82 years old. His family kept him at his home for two nights, before taking his body on to Tapuaekura Marae where the masses will now have their chance to mourn this great leader.

Whānau spokesperson Piki Thomas says, “Even with the bad weather we are having, there have been multitudes of people arriving to mourn and acknowledge our leader Sir Toby. His whānau are at ease now knowing that he has returned to his home to rest.”

The first ones to arrive at the marae this afternoon were the wider local iwi including Ngāti Rongomai and Ngāti Pikiao clearing the way for the coming days when many more are expecting to arrive from around the country including parliamentarians, police, and St Peter’s School alumni.

It has been a heavy week of grief for Te Arawa iwi with back-to-back tangihanga. Ngāti Pikiao has only just farewelled kapa haka stalwart Sally-Ann (Hereana) Roberts whose body was repatriated back to Aotearoa from the Cook Islands after she collapsed backstage prior to Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao’s performance.

Thomas admits it’s been exceptionally hard for the Curtis whānau and having him at his house for the last two days has been a much-needed healing process.

“The whānau have been able to share their kōrero about Sir Toby to one another over these past couple of days. This has been a local affair before allowing all other iwi to share our pāpā.”

He says the whānau and wider hapū want to ensure their leader is laid to rest and manuhiri looked after before addressing the pressures and gaps left behind by their pāpā.