Arts Access Aotearoa mourns the passing of our beloved Kaumātua, The Venerable Wiremu Kaua ONZM, JP (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Horowai, Rongowhakaata, Rakaipaaka, Te Aitanga Hauiti).

Always big-hearted, inclusive and witty, Bill was also a leader and a visionary. His contribution to the people of Aotearoa is immense. 

Bill’s commitment to Arts Access Aotearoa has been unwavering since 2008, when he became our Kaumātua. At the time, Murray Short was Chair of our board of trustees and Bill’s wife, Doris Kaua, was a member of the board.

A rock on which the foundations of Arts Access Aotearoa will endure

For the next 16 years, Bill offered warm, wise and inclusive counsel – always supporting our mahi and guiding the organisation in the use of te reo Māori and tikanga Māori. He was a rock on which the foundations of Arts Access Aotearoa will endure, keeping us strong.

Bill was a passionate advocate of te reo Māori and thought deeply whenever he was asked for words or titles in his language. It was Bill who gifted us “Putanga Toi ki Aotearoa” as the reo equivalent of Arts Access Aotearoa. And so in 2018, our signature Arts Access Awards became known as Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards.

He took particular interest and enjoyment in attending Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards and leading the mihi whakatau and karakia. In 2020, during the uncertainty of COVID, he embraced the digital Awards ceremony and delivered his recorded mihi whakatau standing in front of a green screen.

He also gifted us the title for our fellowships programme, Ngā Toi Rangatira o Aotearoa Arts Access Fellowships, and the name of the conference Ngā Wāhi Auaha Creative Spaces Conference in 2022.

A long public service career spanning 40 years

Bill had a long public service career spanning 40 years and was very well-connected. He brought this knowledge to Arts Access Aotearoa and in 2015, he introduced us to Awhimai Reynolds. She became a trustee and worked with us to develop the organisation’s values. These values continue to serve us extremely well today.

Over the past year, Arts Access Aotearoa has been travelling along a path towards becoming a Te Tiriti o Waitangi partner organisation. We took our first steps at a hui in November 2022, led by Bill and board member Te Aturangi Nepia-Clamp.

Bill brought his copy of Te Tiriti o Waitangi facsimile to the hui, opened it out on the table and showed us the signature of Te Kaua, one of his ancestors. It was a powerful moment. A photograph of this has been framed and blessed by Bill and will remain a taonga for Arts Access Aotearoa.

In May this year, Bill joined staff and trustees when we visited Waiwhetū Marae in Lower Hutt to deepen our knowledge of Te Ao Maōri. We are all grateful that under Bill’s guidance, Arts Access Aotearoa’s commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi is being actioned.

Services to Māori, Education and the State recognised

In 2018, Bill’s services to Māori, Education and the State were recognised when he became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of  Merit. This honour reflected his long public service career. He was also a Justice of the Peace and an Archdeacon in Tīkanga Māori of the Anglican Church in Wellington.

As the Deputy Secretary Māori Education in the Ministry of Education, he was responsible for the implementation of the 10 Point Plan for Māori Education. This included Te Kōhanga Reo and the establishment of Kura Kaupapa Māori, Wharekura and Whare Wānanga.

Among his many achievements, Bill was a cultural advisor to numerous organisations. Through his involvement with Waitangi Tribunal hearings, he was a kaumātua for the lawyers of the Crown Law Office. He was also kaumātua for PHARMAC, where he has led engagement with Whānau Ora Collectives and Māori health providers.

Bill, moe moe ra. We will miss you deeply. However, your wisdom and aroha for Arts Access Aotearoa Putanga Toi ki Aotearoa will guide us still.


Moe moe ra, to matou kaumātua aroha nui


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