National | Environment

Dame Nganeko Minhinnick's kaitiaki legacy lives on

Hundreds gathered at Waiuku's Tahuna Marae, south of Auckland, for the burial service of environmental champion Dame Nganeko Minhinnick. The trail blazer in environmental legislation reform was laid to rest in her ancestral marae cemetery, beside the waters she advocated for, the Manukau Harbour.

A final haka tribute by mokopuna and whānau as a befitting send off for their matriarch.

Tributes described Dame Nganeko as the embodiment of the Waikato proverb "at every bend is a guardian," because of her ground breaking efforts to clean up the Manukau Harbour and Waikato river.

"She is one of the guardians of the Waikato river. A champion, an icon, a female leader. She's a woman who fought before the government against the council regarding pollution issues to land, the waters and forests. She set the bench mark that will not be forgotten by New Zealanders," said former Manukau City Council cultural adviser, Hare Williams.

Kiingitanga spokesperson, Tukuroirangi Morgan says, "She was an example in advocating for kaitiakitanga that we see today. These goals and principals are being taken up by other iwi throughout the country."

Decades ago Dame Nganeko advocated for the protection of significant land area's in South Auckland, which remains a contentious issue today.

"She worked with (former Manukau Mayor) Barry Curtis. One of the area's of concern was Ihumātao. At the moment the Auckland council is considering the government's plan to confiscate the land as a special housing area, to build affordable homes in Auckland. That is wrong! Some of their youth have gone to the United Nations with a submission, that the land not be taken from them," said Williams.

Dame Nganeko is survived by her five children and many mokopuna.