Māori leaders, politicians, journalists pay tribute to Titewhai Harawira

Māori leaders, politicians and journalists are paying their respects to renowned activist Titewhai Harawira who died overnight, aged 90. 

Former MP Hone Harawira, one of her eight sons, shared the news on Facebook early on Wednesday morning.

Hone said his mum will lay at rest at home in Avondale, Auckland, before going to Hoani Waititi Marae and being buried in Te Tai Tokerau in Northland. 

Her death comes just over a week before iwi and Government leaders descend on the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi where Titewhai was a constant figure. 

Māori leader Dame Naida Glavish told AM on Wednesday Titewhai lived her "life to the fullest" and she can't imagine Waitangi without her. 

"This will be the first Waitangi that we won't be seeing or hearing from Titewhai, but certainly it's not the end of her work. Her work will continue with her children and her wider whānau and indeed many in the community of Aotearoa," Glavish told AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green.

"She was a leader, she is a leader and a lot of people refer to her as a protester, but my preference, of course, is that she was more a protector of the rights and she was true to the word."

Glavish said Titewhai leaves behind an enormous legacy of activism.

"She was a part of every avenue that was available to stand for the rights of Te Tiriti o Waitangi ... so she will live on," she said. 

"Her legacy is in actual fact to stand strong as a Māori, believe in yourself as a Māori and stay staunch to protect what our ancestors believed they were signing in terms of Te Tiriti o Waitangi." 

National Party leader Christopher Luxon remembered Titewhai as someone who challenged politicians but also supported them. 

"I never had a chance to meet her or get to know her at all but what was obvious to me was she was a fantastic advocate for Māori particularly around loss of language and loss of land," Luxon told AM on Wednesday. 

"I think the way she provoked politicians but also supported them was pretty special and I remember her saying, be polite but always be honest and I think [that's] not a bad way to be able to live and to be able to discuss some difficult issues at times. We can disagree without being disagreeable but always say what you think."  

National Party leader Christopher Luxon.
National Party leader Christopher Luxon. Photo credit: AM

Greens co-leader Marima Davidson paid tribute to Titewhai on AM Early on Wednesday remembering her as a staunch advocate for Te Ao Māori.

"Imagine being an activist for that long, right till the end and the fullness of her life," Davidson told AM Early host Oriini Kaipara. 

"Staunch and feisty for the entirety of her life, right from when she was a young girl … right through all of her years of mokopuna." 

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson said Titewhai had a huge presence in Te Ao Māori and across New Zealand.

"She wasn't just a protester but in fact became one of our most important leaders, particularly for urban Māori and challengers to the establishment of the last 50 years," Jackson said.

"It's ironic she dies now, on the day of the PM's resignation. Ti loved Jacinda immensely and would have been shattered with her resignation."

Journalist Mihingarangi Forbes also paid tribute to Titewhai saying "she challenged when others had nothing left in the tank." 

"She was relentless, purposeful and irreplaceable, the embodiment of mana wahine. She set out to make change and she changed our world. E Titewhai, moe mai e te rangatira," Forbes wrote on Twitter.