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'He held the family together' - Covid-19 victim was a humble leader, devoted historian

A Waikato man who died from Covid-19 yesterday has been described as a "quiet" and "humble" leader.

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Nigel Te Hiko, 54, died after several weeks in Waikato Hospital. Source: 1 NEWS

Nigel Huirama Te Hiko, 54, died yesterday afternoon, following the death of his brother Alan earlier this month from Covid-19. 

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The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield read a statement from Nigel Huirama Te Hiko’s family warning Kiwis about the deadly virus. Source: 1 NEWS

Nigel Te Hiko died at Waikato Hospital's ICU unit and was known as a leader and historian for Ngāti Raukawa.

He lived in Tokoroa and contracted the virus from his brother, who worked at the Americold coolstore in Auckland - the source of Auckland's latest cluster.

The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed his death today and read a statement on behalf of his family warning of the dangers of Covid-19.

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A community is grieving the loss of both Nigel and Alan Te Hiko, who both lost their lives to coronavirus. Source: 1 NEWS

“Coronavirus is so real," the family statement read. "Be vigilant and cautious.”

They also urged those who are sick to get tested and to stay home.

Bloomfield says the death illustrates just how serious the disease is.

Despite battling illness prior to Covid-19, Nigel Te Hiko remained humble and continued his work as a historian while serving his iwi, his family said.

“Over the last few years Nigel was burdened with declining health. It slowed but did not hinder him, nor diminish his attitude and desire to continue to do what he could for his iwi and people.

“His quiet humble determination to not be bowed by illness, and to continue to work and strive to complete his work, especially his compilation of a definitive Raukawa History, was an inspiration for us all.

“He has left immense shoes to fill for the iwi, but we are so grateful he has left so many words and writings, which will feed the minds and hearts of many of this generation and of those many who are to come,” the statement read.

His family also described him as "a leader in the whānau".

“He rallied whānau together. One call from him and everybody would flock to him. He was a father figure to all our nephew and nieces; he was the one they would turn to when they needed advice. He held the family together.

“He has so much love for whānau whānui. The door at our whānau homestead was always open, no matter what time day or night. The door and Nigel’s heart was always open.”

Nigel Te Hiko worked for 20 years for the Raukawa Māori Trust Board, which would become the Raukawa Settlement trust.

He had a background in social work but developed his skills and expertise as a researcher and historian.

His colleague and Raukawa chair Vanessa Eparaima says he was a man of "immense skill and invaluable support for so many”.

“Nigel was a Raukawa historian whose love for knowledge and passion for accumulating and increasing his and his tribe’s shared history and mātauranga leaves a lasting legacy.”

“He was an incredibly humble man, he did not crave the limelight, and was an immense pou of support often in the background, supporting leaders with whaikōrero when required, history and advice, and with the ammunition of research and knowledge which was crucial to the conclusion of the Raukawa Treaty settlement negotiations.”

His death brings New Zealand confirmed death toll from Covid-19 to 25.