Trevor Taurima honoured but claims he's just following in his grandfather's footsteps

By Elizabeth Ormond

By Elizabeth Ormond, Te Rito journalism cadet.

Trevor Taurima (Ngāti Tū), a prominent Hawke's Bay kaumatua, has been named as one of the new members of the New Zealand Order of Merit for 2022.

He receives this honour for his services to Māori, conservation, and sport.

Taurima says the award comes as a surprise but he has spent a lifetime serving whānau, and te taiao (environment).

Rather than consider the award as a "crowning moment of glory," he prefers to reflect upon the meaning behind the decades of service to his community.

Taurima recalls his grandfather's life philosophy, which entails taking action wherever possible.

He says he took that philosophy onboard and devoted himself to whānau and taiao.

He credits his grandfather with teaching him to devote himself to his work.   

"I was and am driven. My grandfather always said 'if you see a task, do it'. Don't wait for people to come up with ideas, that takes time. We don't have time to dwell on things.    

“My life has all been about serving people and bringing conclusions to projects that have needed to be completed.”

Taurima spoke of his conservation efforts, one of which has been with Maungaharuru Tangitū Trust.

In 2011 he joined the Poutiri Ao ō Tane project - a forest restoration project of almost 9000 hectares.

The vision behind the project was to repopulate the range with bird species that were present at the time of the arrival of the Tākitimu waka.

He entered negotiations with hapū up and down Aotearoa, who would supply taonga bird species including tītī, kākā, kākāriki, kōrure and pāteke (teal brown duck).

The hapū were ready to gift these birds to Maungaharuru Tangitū Trust upon the assurance that they would be protected and well looked after.

“The birds are all flourishing now, but well before receiving our taonga, we had to make sure we had a good pest management control programme," Taurima says.

“We had to have buy-in from farmers, schools and other community groups, as well as Hawke's Bay Regional Council and the Department of Conservation.”

Taurima describes returning birdlife to Maungaharuru and its link to the whakapapa of the mountain.

"The high priest Tūpai looked up to the mountain [Maungaharuru] and saw a black cloud rise from the forest tops and it was so prolific. He realised it was made of birds, they took flight to feed, and the mountain shook with great force. That is how Maungaharuru gets its name. It is important that the species coming back to the maunga were from that time, when the Tākitimu arrived."

Taurima says restoring the population of native birds to Maungaharuru has been special for his people.

"This adds to the grace of our kaumātua, who stand on the marae and talk about kākā and tītī. At one point, these birds were plentiful but we have had kaumātua who have said: ‘I long to hear, I long to see them.’"

"My generation of kaumātua now says: 'We have seen and we have heard."

Taurima also receives recognition for his contributions to the sport. He has been a driving force for squash and waka ama at regional, national, and international levels.

He helped found Ngā Hau E Whā Māori Squash Association in the 1980s.

Taurima took up waka ama after a friend introduced him to the sport, and through Heretaunga Ararau O Ngāti Kahungunu Waka Ama Rōpū, which he co-founded, he has passed on his passion to future generations.

Taurima says there is still work to be done for te taiao and for waka ama but intends to rest for a while. His heart, however, is never far away from Maungaharuru or the waka.