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Force behind te reo Māori revitalisation Dr Huirangi Waikerepuru passes away

Huirangi Waikerepuru of Taranaki and Ngāpuhi descent died last night among his whānau, aged 91.

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The 91-year-old spearheaded efforts to recognise Te Reo Māori in the 1980s. Source: 1 NEWS

"Hui was a battler, it didn't phase him how challenging or even whether the opposition was mighty, he was determined to prevail to ensure the survival of te reo Māori," says family spokesperson Ruakere Hond.

"His loss will be felt right across the country, for many of us here in Taranaki, we are still coming to terms with the loss of our leader," says Mr Hond.

Huirangi Waikerepuru was instrumental in the Ngā Kaiwhakapūmau i te Reo Māori movement and the establishment of Māori language radio station Te Upoko o te Ika in 1988 which gave rise to contemporary Māori broadcasting.

Julian Wilcox, CEO of Ngāi Tahu and former broadcaster, says he is "going to miss him immensely". 

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The former broadcaster says he is going to “miss him immensely”. Source: 1 NEWS

"Huirangi inspired not just me but my generation of language speakers. He revitalised te reo Māori, the force of te reo Māori and he was one of the staunchest advocates. He invigorated all of us who went in to broadcasting." 

Mr Wilcox says it was the work of Dr Waikerepuru that triggered the development of te reo Māori in broadcasting.

"There wouldn't be the over 20 Māori radio stations across the country if it wasn't for the work of Huirangi Waikerepuru. I think today's generation of broadcasters stand on the shoulders of Dr Huirangi Waikerepuru."

Ngā Kaiwhakapūmau i te Reo Māori lodged WAI11 to the Waitangi Tribunal for te reo Māori to gain official status in 1984. It was the first general Māori claim. The claim was the genesis for the 1986 act, when the language was made an official language of New Zealand.

In 1995 Dr Waikerepuru was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Waikato and in 2014 he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.  He was also a life member of the Tertiary Education Union.

It was very clear to Huirangi what avenues and platforms were required ultimately for the survival of te reo Māori, he was the godfather of te reo Māori broadcasting, says Mr Hond.