You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Tributes flow in for Sir Graham Latimer

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 7/06/2016

Prominent Maori leader Sir Graham Latimer is being remembered as a figure who bridged two worlds in politics while fighting for the betterment of his people.

The former Maori Council president's family confirmed he died at age 90 at his Pamapuria home on Tuesday.

Sir Graham rose through the ranks within tribal leadership to influence change, according to the council.

"A very gifted man who has worked across the political divide and in the interest of all Maori."

A number of acts, including the Crown Forest Assets Act, Crown Forest Rental Trust, Maori Fisheries and Maori Broadcasting were a result of his efforts, it said.

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said the death was a huge loss.

"He was one of those people like Ranginui Walker who really shook the tree to try and shake the consciousness of young Maori people at the time," he said.

Noel Harrison's biography of Sir Graham chronicled his rise, saying he was born beside a dirt track on the Aupouri Peninsula in Northland in 1926.

"His family had so little cash that it barely noticed the collapse of the world's economy. Anyone with a horse was considered well-off in the Far North gumfields."

Knighted in 1980, Sir Graham was chairman of the Maori Council for more than 30 years and was its honorary president at the time of his death.

He led court action against the Crown in the 1980s against the effects of state-owned enterprises legislation which would have removed protection of assets transferred to them.

The Court of Appeal ruled in the council's favour and in doing so gave the Treaty of Waitangi much more weight in New Zealand law.

The shine of that victory was tarnished in 1997, when he was fined $16,000 for with filing false tax returns and not registering for GST.

He suggested Maori should receive superannuation earlier than other people due to their lower than average lifespan, that cannabis be legalised to help create jobs for Maori and spoke out against Maori tobacco smoking.

Police, seeking confidential Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission documents said to have been leaked, raided his Northland home but Sir Graham was awarded thousands of dollars in costs after the search warrants were judged unlawful.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox described Sir Graham as a "quintessential Maori leader who was able to bridge both Maori and Pakeha politics and walk in both spheres."

Prime Minister John Key said he was a great New Zealander.

"(He was) someone who made a real contribution and who was a great advocate for Maori rights and interest. I think his family will be very proud of what he achieved," he said of the former National Party member.

A tangi will be held at Te Paatu Marae at Pamapuria, south of Kaitaia.

Sir Graham's wife Lady Emily Latimer, the first woman to sit on the Maori Council, died in 2015.

He is survived by five children.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon