COVID-19: Nephew of virus victim Nigel Te Hiko warns New Zealand of virus' 'deadly' reality

Nigel Te Hiko, a revered Raukawa leader and historian, died yesterday.
Nigel Te Hiko, a revered Raukawa leader and historian, died yesterday. Photo credit:

The deaths of two brothers from COVID-19 in less than a fortnight has prompted a warning from their family for others to take the virus seriously.

Nigel Huirama Te Hiko died on Tuesday afternoon at Waikato Hospital's intensive care unit, almost two weeks after his elder brother Alan succumbed to the virus.

As news of Nigel Te Hiko's death spread on Wednesday, so did praise for the respected kaumātua, historian and Ngāti Raukawa leader.

His nephew, Chris McKenzie, said Te Hiko dedicated his life to his community.

"It's difficult to know where to start with Nigel, he was such an important and integral part of our family, our everyday life, our community and our tribe. He has literally dedicated his life to the service of his family and others," he said.

McKenzie described his uncle as "a teacher, a leader and a friend" to many.

"Essentially just a generous, funny, passionate, humble man who will be greatly missed."

He said he had worked with his uncle on the Treaty claims process and he was a history expert and collector of whakapapa for Raukawa iwi.

He likely developed an interest in history through a number of knowledgeable elders around his marae, including his aunties and uncles.

"But it was through more than a decade of research for the settlements of our tribe where he really honed his skills."

Nigel Te Hiko excelled at whatever he did and was the family chess champ, McKenzie said. He added that his family had vigilantly followed the public health measures and protocols amid New Zealand's COVID-19 outbreak. 

"For a long time our family has been extremely vigilant about the rules... despite following the rules, our family has been devastated by the impacts of COVID," he said.

"We know the reality of how deadly the disease is, how quick it acts and how uncompromising it is, and we have redoubled our efforts.

"We would say to the rest of the country that in order to ensure the safety of each other as a wider community, to follow the rules explicitly so this sort of tragedy does not have to impact on any other family."

Iwi chair Vanessa Eparaima described her friend as a wealth of knowledge who never stopped giving.

"He was just laughter and fun, but so much knowledge and so much wisdom."

She said the cost of COVID-19 is too great not to take the virus seriously.

"I've personally seen the impact that this virus has had on this family, I'm so proud of everything that they've done, they've done all the right things to take care of themselves and others.

"We don't need this situation duplicated anywhere in New Zealand at all and I think we all value lives highly, the cost is too great not to."