I spent most of last week at the tangi of Ngahuia's koro Percy Marunui Murphy. The tangi was in Murupara at Rangitahi, the marae of Ngati Hui hapu of Ngati Manawa.
As well as getting the chance to hear more about the life of this extraordinary man - decorated Maori Battalion veteran, first Maori Mayor and entrepreneur - it was also an opportunity to get to know people from the town. Murupara has a pretty rough reputation, and features among the most deprived areas of the country, but I found a warm and generous people with a lot of get up and go. In particular the students of Te Kura Kaupapa o Tawhiuau were outstanding and huge respect must go to all the administrators and kaiako. I also heard about a number local initiatives, such as the organic community gardens, all examples of people working to build resilience and self reliance in the face of adversity.
Murupara used to be a thriving little town, but the forestry sell off of the 80's left most of the town out of work. Young people either face long term unemployment or they leave their ancestral lands to find work elsewhere. The people I met over the week showed me that there is still plenty of potential though.
I also learned a bit about making a hangi - not exactly a vegetarians dream but good mahi all the same.