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Published: 2006-08-16 00:00:00

Environment Waikato councillors and staff are today mourning the passing of the Maori Queen, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu.

“The community has lost a great leader – and Maoridom has lost a true visionary,” said Environment Waikato chair Jenni Vernon.

“We held Dame Te Atairangikaahu in the highest regard and valued our relationship with her, as we continue to value our relationship with the people of Tainui.

“I love the term Maoridom use for her, “our lady”, which really sums her up. She was a real lady. She was very gracious and she had such a warm, welcoming smile, but at the same time she was hugely influential and commanded real respect from her people.

“From a personal point of view it was a huge honour for my husband Gordon and I to attend her 40-year coronation celebrations.”

A formal remembrance ceremony was held at the beginning of today’s policy committee meeting, which all councillors attended.

A minute’s silence was observed before Cr David Peart delivered a prayer.

“We gather in a sombre manner to remember a life well lived,” Cr Peart said.

“It was a life of inspirational leadership that was lived in grace and dignity – a leadership that was humble and never overbearing, but very much directional. Our nation has been privileged to have such a leader and we mourn her passing.

“Now we ask for wisdom for those who must choose a successor because the work will go on. The movement needs a good leader and we pray for wisdom for those who must make that choice.”

Environment Waikato staff member Reginald Proffit said Dame Te Atairangikaahu had touched a lot of people.

“I don’t think there are enough beautiful adjectives to describe the person we’ve lost, nor do I have the oratory skills to weave those adjectives together to aptly describe her,” he said.

“Even with the knowledge of the imminent passing of our lady it’s still a shock at the core of our people.”

Presentation of the 2006 Dame Te Ata I-Rangi-Kaahu scholarship, which was to have taken place at the policy committee meeting today, was postponed this morning following news of her passing.

Environment Waikato flew its flag at half mast today in recognition of the loss of a great leader.