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Public's final tribute to Maori Queen

Published: 6:11PM Sunday August 20, 2006 Source: One News

The final wave of mourners have descended on Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia to farewell the Maori Queen.

It was the last opportunity for the public to pay tribute to Dame Te Atarangikahu, ahead of her burial on Monday.

As the tears softly flowed down their cheeks, the skies cried too, for Dame Te Ata - a sign from the gods that a great leader has passed.

The tributes sounded out loud and strong. So too the did the familiar fanfare from a longtime ally of the Kingitanga, Former Maori Affairs Minister Koro Wetere.

"It's very strong in a positive way and it has held together since," he says.

Like the Kingitanga, Ratana too became a platform for Maori to unite, each choosing different paths - Ratana securing a political voice for Maori, the Kingitanga uniting from within.

"Both groups tried to seek reconciliation of those same things and in the end they decided not to part company but to strengthen within themselves," says Wetere.

Other movements outside New Zealand have also drawn strength and inspiration from Dame Te Ata and the Kingitanga.

French Polynesia President Oscar Temaru has been fighting to free Tahiti from the grip of French Polynesia. He says he came to pay respects to Dame Te Ata.

On Monday, Dame Te Atarangikaahu who was affectionately known by her people as simply The Lady will be buried on Kingitanga's sacred mountain.

Like her ancestors before her, the grave will unmarked as a sign of equality - that she was just one of the people.

Traffic delays

Drivers are being warned to expect delays on Monday as Dame Te Ata is taken to her resting place on Taupiri Mountain.

State Highway One will be closed to southbound traffic between Huntly, Taupiri and Ngaruawahia. It will be closed to northbound traffic from Ngaruawhia.

Those closures are expected to last around six hours from 10am until 4pm, but they could be longer.

Detours will be in place from 7.30am on Monday. Southbound traffic will be re-routed to the western side of the Waikato River, while northbound traffic on State Highway 1B will be diverted from Lake Road to Horotiu.

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