South Waikato bids Papa Neil farewell
The father of the South Waikato Neil Sinclair has been officially farewelled after serving the community for 12 years as mayor.
Sinclair, who is affectionately called ‘‘Papa Neil’’ by local youths, was farewelled in a private function at the South Waikato Sport and Events Centre on Thursday after announcing before this year’s local body elections that he would not be standing again.
He plans to instead spend his time doting over his grandchildren.
The function was attended by council staff, councillors, family, and community representatives such as Raukawa Settlement Trust chair Vanessa Eparaima, Raukawa historian Nigel Te Hiko, and South Waikato Pacific Island Community Services chief executive Akarere Henry.
All spoke highly of the outgoing mayor.
Te Hiko referred to late Raukawa elder Haki Thompson when he spoke of Sinclair’s rangatira (chieftainship).
‘‘[Prior to Haki’s passing] we asked how do you measure rangatira and the koroua said there are three things,’’ he said.
‘‘A chieftain will stand under the mantel of integrity and I say Neil fits that category. The second thing Haki reminded us of was the chieftain is the beacon of hope for all iwi so I look to Neil and I see that he has fulfilled that promise as well. The third important measure of a chieftain is the aroha (love) for their whenua (land) and for their people so I look to Neil and I see he has fulfilled that promise too.’’
‘‘Tonight is our opportunity to let Neil go with our thanks, our admiration, and with our love,’’ he said.
Eparaima spoke of the strong relationship Sinclair had built with Raukawa.
She presented Sinclair with a pounamu symbolising an ant’s head ‘‘with a twist’’.
‘‘The ant’s head is a tool that shapes our destiny, a tool that shapes our waka, a tool that shapes us, and you have done that for your community,’’ she said.
‘‘The twist is the flexibility you have provided, showing us that we are all able to walk our own pathways and to express our own truths but we can stand there and be fluid in that and find a way forward that joins us all together.’’
Henry said she knows Sinclair’s heart ‘‘continues to be with our people.’’