South Waikato bids Papa Neil farewell

South Waikato News - - Your Paper, Your Place - LUKE KIRKEBY

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.

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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.’’

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