Announcement of Tā Matiu Rei’s retirement

Release courtesy of Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira

It is with a heavy heart and debt of gratitude that Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira announces the retirement of Tā Matiu Rei from his long-serving role as Executive Director. Tā Matiu has held this position for thirty years, since the initial establishment of the Rūnanga in 1989.  During this time he has been pivotal in building the capability of the organisation and expanding its vast array of services to better provide for the health and well-being of our Iwi and the wider community.

In this role, Tā Matiu has led the establishment of a primary health service comprising five medical centres, a specialist nursing and health workers service, an addictions and primary mental service and a disability residential service. Tā Matiu is recognised as a pioneer of health services and programmes for māori communities and is widely respected for his leadership in the māori health sector.

Since 1986 he has also been responsible for preparing and leading Ngati Toa’s Treaty of Waitangi claim and for developing the post-settlement governance entity that now forms the vehicle for taking Ngati Toa forward into the future. Tā Matiu’s extensive knowledge of our tribal history and tikanga, combined with his shrewd negotiation skills, was critical to the success of Ngati Toa’s unique Treaty settlement in 2014 and it’s status as one of the best settlements (per head of population) of any settlement in the country.  Tā Matiu’s work in leading the Treaty claim through to final settlement was entrusted to him by his father and other Ngati Toa Kaumātua, who instilled him with the necessary knowledge to arm him for the decades of legal battles and Waitangi Tribunal hearings that were to follow.  Included amongst these Kaumātua were Ariana Rene, Ringi Horomona, Ruta Rene, Ihakara Arthur, Iwikatea Nicholson, Tiratu Williams and many others.  Tā Matiu’s knowledge and insight was critical in upholding Ngāti Toa’s mana throughout this period, which culminated in the ultimate achievement of a Treaty settlement of all historical grievances.

Tā Matiu has also contributed to iwi development at a national level through his Chairmanship of Te Ohu Kaimoana for several years, where he advanced Maori interests in the marine environment – an area in which he has been particularly influential. He also chaired the pan-iwi group to challenge the Crown’s authority over the foreshore and seabed during the 1990s. In addition, Tā Matiu has consistently championed the importance of Maori education through his role as a founding  member and Purutanga Mauri of Te Wānanga o Raukawa, New Zealand’s first Maori tertiary education institution.

In 2016 Tā Matiu’s many accomplishments were acknowledged when he was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday awards for services to Maori spanning many decades. At the time of receiving the award, Tā Matiu was reluctant to accept it as personal recognition of his achievements, preferring to share the honour with all of Ngāti Toa. In December 2019, Tā Matiu received an honoury degree of Doctor of Laws from Victoria University for his business and legal acumen, and his dedication to improving outcomes for Maori. Once again, this was a huge honour befitting the contribution Tā Matiu has made to the advancement of Māori health, education, economic development and Treaty settlement resolution.

Tā Matiu is acknowledged as one of the country’s most esteemed Maori leaders and Ngāti Toa is extremely fortunate to have had the benefit of his bold and tireless leadership over the last three decades.  Tā Matiu’s retirement will leave the Rūnanga bereft of his knowledge and leadership, and he will be sorely missed.   But his legacy will continue through the Rūnanga’s ongoing work in advancing whānau well-being and prosperity. We wish Tā Matiu all the best for a happy and fulfilling retirement, and we look forward to an Iwi event at an appropriate time to properly acknowledge his accomplishments for the benefit of all Ngāti Toa and the generations to come.