Political leaders remember Koro Wetere

By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

Political leaders and former politicians have paid their respects to former Māori Affairs Minister and Labour MP Koro Wetere, who lies in state at Turangawaewae Marae in Ngāruawāhia. 

This morning, the Acting Prime Minister, Winston Peters, paid his respects with government officials. The passing of Koro Wetere was enough to delay cabinet today.

"The marvellous thing about Koro was that when we were off the field of politics he never held a grudge," says Peters.

"He was a superb singer. He could have been an opera singer actually if he hadn't gone into politics. But he was highly respected by all of us and I'm not just saying that because he's dead. I'm saying that because it's a fact."

Koro Wetere got Nanaia Mahuta to sign up to the Labour Party in 1994. He still makes her smile.

"He was Loyal," says Mahuta. 

"Especially with the Kingitanga and the Ratana movement. A trusted advisor. Funny things about him? His swept up haircut and you know back in the old days it seemed to be always windy when they took a photo of him. But we loved him for that. Always available. A great sense of humour. Always evident kanohi kitea amongst our people and amongst Maori. So yeah, we'll miss him."

This afternoon former Prime Minister, Jim Bolger, joined the many praising Koro Wetere.

"He'll be remembered as a good man who did a good job," says Bolger.

They may have been on opposite sides of the house, but both Bolger and Wetere were loyal King Countrymen.

"I consider Koro a real friend."

With Koro Wetere are the late Pare Hikairo and Inia Te Wiata. They will lay in state until Wednesday where they will have a joint service before Wetere is returned to his home grounds in Ngāti Maniapoto