National | Iwi leaders

Te Wharehuia Milroy - A life in service of Māoridom

Professor James Te Wharehuia Milroy QSO, of Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Koura descent, is widely acknowledged for his commitment to the revitalisation and normalisation of te reo and tikanga Māori.

Milroy was a professor at the University of Waikato, a songwriter, a guardian of te reo Māori, an avid golfer and whānau man.  He passed away early Tuesday morning at the age of 81.

He was known for his ability to use traditional whakatauki in new ways, even making some of his own, such as the below, expressing his hope that the oral traditions of Māori would be maintained:

              'Whakahokia te reo mai i te mata o te pene, ki te mata o te arero'

              (Bring the language back from the tip of the pen to the tip of the tongue)

Many have taken to social media to farewell him:

#HeMaimaiAroha Te Wharehuia Milroy Kua whakawhenua ngaa parirau o te Manukura a Tiki, tau ai, moe ai. Kua hinga a...

Posted by Kiingitanga on Monday, May 6, 2019

In 2004, Milroy gave the name Te Matatini to New Zealand's largest kapa haka festival.  The name was based around two words "Te Mata" meaning face and "tini" meaning many.

Milroy said in 2004, "Māori performing arts brings together people of all ages, all backgrounds, all beliefs, Māori and non-Māori alike, participants and observers.  When I look, I see many faces, young and old."

His passion for the Māori language led to the establishment of Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo Māori, the Institute of Excellence in the Māori Language, in the same year.

Milroy, alongside Māori language experts Dr Tīmoti Kāretu and Professor Pou Temara launched the institute to further develop competent speakers of te reo Māori.

Now in its 15th year, Te Panekire has seen hundreds of students from all walks of life, including broadcasting and teaching and more, excel in te reo subjects, such as grammar, music, whaikōrero, karanga and tribal history.

Waka Huia / YouTube


A respected academic at Waikato University, Milroy played a leading role in forging a model for teaching te reo Māori which was followed by many other tertiary institutions across Aotearoa.

He has been a member of the Waitangi Tribunal, sitting on Treaty claims including those of Ngāti Whātua and Wairarapa.

Milroy has also been a trustee on the Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust and a member of the New Zealand Geographic Board, providing a Māori perspective on the geography of New Zealand.

Milroy was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the Māori Language in 2012.

Funeral arrangements for Milroy will be confirmed by his whānau.