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Tainui's Sir Robert Mahuta dies

Published: 8:04AM Thursday February 01, 2001

Tributes have poured in for Tainui chief negotiator Sir Robert Mahuta, who died on Thursday morning.

Sir Robert orchestrated the Tainui-Waikato land claim, where in 1995 the Crown compensated the tribe with a $170 million settlement, the return of some land and a Crown apology.

It was the first settlement completed by the Crown.

Former Minister of Treaty Negotiations Sir Douglas Graham described Sir Robert as a warrior who dedicated his life to serving his tribe.

Sir Douglas, who negotiated the $170 million settlement, said he was impressed by Sir Robert's integrity throughout the whole process.

He said by the time the settlement was concluded he had come to regard Sir Robert as a good friend.

National leader Jenny Shipley, whose Government signed the landmark 1995 Tainui settlement with Sir Robert, said his work set the model for other Waitangi treaty negotiations.

Shipley said Sir Robert never gave up even when the differences between Tainui and the Crown seemed impossible to resolve.

National list MP Georgina Te Heu Heu said she would miss his sense of humour. "When you're chosen the way he is to play a role, then your life is more or less cut out for you so you've got to find some fun somewhere along the way and he always tried to do that and I'll remember him very fondly for that."

Te Heu Heu said Sir Robert proved it was possible to achieve justice for past breaches of the Treaty.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said Sir Robert made a huge contribution to Maoridom and she was saddened by his death. She said even when he was suffering from ill health he continued to work tirelessly on behalf of the Tainui people.

Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia said he is deeply saddened by the Tainui leader's death. He said Sir Robert was one of the outstanding Maori leaders of modern times.

Sir Robert is survived by his wife Raiha and three children. His elder daughter, Nanaia, is a Labour MP.

Sir Robert Te Kotahi Mahuta was born in 1939 in Te Kuiti. He grew up at Waahi Pa in Huntly and is the stepbrother of the Maori Queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu.

Mahuta led a varied life working as a watersider and a freezing worker before going on to gain his Masters degree in Anthropology.

Over his distinguished career Sir Robert served as a Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commissioner, Chairman of the Maori Development Corporation, Director for Maori Studies at Waikato University and chairman of the Tainui Maori Trust Board.

Sir Robert went into hospital last week with severe abdominal pain. His poor health forced the Maori Queen to replace him on the tribe's powerful executive.

He was knighted in 1997.

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