Tipene Maangi makes final journey home to Te Whānau a Apanui

By Taroi Black

The only Māori victim and Whakatāne local who lost his life in the eruption Tipene Maangi had his name officially released by the police today.

24-year-old Maangi from Te Whānau a Apanui worked as a tour guide for White Island Tours and had only been working there for two months, according to his relation Craig Teddy.

Tipene grew up among his elders of Te Whānau a Apanui and he was regularly on the marae or among the community and with his people, Teddy says.

"He was well versed in our hapū Te Whānau a Te Ehutu traditions and relationship with our ancestress Whakaari, and he knew details about our hapū Treaty of Waitangi claim to protect her as well."

His body was released to his whānau by the Chief Coroner in Auckland today, with a convoy of members from Ngāti Awa meeting whānau in Whakatāne, before the journey to return Maangi home to Whangaparāoa or Cape Runaway.

His tangihanga will take place at Kauaetangohia Marae upon his arrival.

The tangihanga for Tipene Maangi at Kauaetangohia Marae today.  Photo/File

“He kaupapa nui tēna, he pōuri. It’s sad seeing our young rangatahi not living their life fully. So big aroha to him and his whānau," Whakatāne Christmas at the Park organiser Thomas Mitai says.

“Although it’s celebrating Christmas, with the Whakaari eruption we changed the kaupapa in order to commemorate those victims,” Mitai says.

“We’ve changed the songs to suit those who have passed on, those who have left their legacies behind.”

Respects will be paid to the victims and their families of the Whakaari White Island eruption at today's Whakatāne Christmas at the Park.  Photo/File

New Zealand musicians and Whakatāne locals will pay respects to the victims and their families of the Whakaari White Island eruption at today's Whakatāne Christmas at the Park.

The line-up for the event will include The Harmonicas, the Korean couple who sing in te reo Māori Daniel & Ashley, primary school kapa haka national champions Te Kura o Te Pāroa and other local artists.

A moment of silence will be observed at the beginning of the event to remember the people who lost their lives in Monday’s eruption.

The memorial service held at Rexmorth Park in Whakatāne will be followed by Christmas carols sung both in te reo Māori and English.

The public event is also a dollar coin donation to support the families of the victims of the Whakaari White Island eruption. 

In an update from police, Deputy Commissioner John Tims said this morning at 8am three helicopters, two commercial helicopters and the Police Eagle helicopter, left for Whakaari White Island with eight police staff on board.

The staff covered a search area where the best information suggested a body could still remain. Unfortunately, police did not locate a body this morning, Tims says.

Eight police staff returned to Whakaari White Island today to continue the search.  Photo/NZ Police 

"We have always anticipated recovering all bodies from the island, and we remain deeply committed to that goal, to allow families some closure.

"We are now debriefing, reassessing and coming up with a new plan going forward," he says.

Tims says Navy and Police divers are working together and have recommenced searching this afternoon.