My experience of Parekura Horomia

You may well ask what this has to do with either business or agriculture and the answer is nothing very much! But I would like to mark the death of Parekura Horomia with some personal comments which are based purely on my experience and contact with him before he became an MP.

 

Although this doesn’t have much relevance to business or agriculture, Parekura was a son of the East Coast where it’s hard to get away from matters rural.

 

My own experience of him was over a relatively brief period during the first few months of 1998 when I had the dubious pleasure of leading the process of integrating (merging) three government departments to form WINZ. The big two were Income Support (remember Christine Rankin), part of the Ministry of Social Welfare, and the Employment Service, part of the Department of Labour.

 

Then there was the minnow which was the Community Employment Group, headed by Parekura. CEG was in a sense an orphan, having no offices outside Wellington, but operating out the labour Department’s Head Office. The unit consisted of a series of Government funded programmes across the country specifically set up to employ Maori or PacificIsland youth. But what made it so impressive was the enthusiasm and passion that Parekura brought to his work which he absolutely believed in.

 

He saw it as his responsibility to take me to see as many of these programmes as possible, given my time constraints trying to work through all the issues of merging two separate departments that didn’t like each other. We travelled to Napier, Christchurch and Auckland visiting various work programmes, as well as the Executive Council of Ngati Kahugnunu and the Wapareira Trust.

 

I spent quite a bit of time with Parekura on these trips, as well as occasionally in Wellington at the Green Parrot and other restaurants. I liked and respected him enormously – he cared about his people, was passionate about improving their lot, and he also genuinely liked people in general.

 

He was determined to convince me of the value of his small business unit and he succeeded to the extent that my final report, before Christine Rankin took over as Chief Executive of the new department, recommended leaving CEG intact. Parekura had convinced me of the value that his unit was contributing to the future of young Maori and Pacific Islanders, while I also thought it made good sense for the National Government at the time.

 

We never talked politics, so I never really knew whether he was Labour or National, but of course National policy at the time was all about mainstream solutions for all and CEG was closed shortly afterwards. Parekura was an obvious choice to represent Labour at the 1999 election with his amazing network of contacts throughout Maoridom and an even more logical choice as Minister of Maori Affairs.

 

Although he didn’t have much to do with business in the formal sense, as opposed to the public service, Parekura provided an object lesson in how to network and get on with people, while ensuring that things got done. He had the respect of everybody who knew him and I was privileged to work with him, albeit only for a short period.

 

Goodbye Chief!

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3 Responses to “My experience of Parekura Horomia”

  1. empower network viral blogging system Says:

    Great post.

  2. Wira Gardiner Says:

    Allan: I nice touch thank you. I am writing Parekura’s life story and wondered if I could have permission to use this piece (appropriately attributed)? I was in Paris last week and interviewed a senior OECD official who remembered Parekura fondly during the days he was head of CEG. Best wishes Wira Gardiner

    • Allan Barber Says:

      Wira

      Of course you are welcome to use my piece as and when you wish. I have to say that Parekura was the person I got on with better than anyone else from Work and Income and the Employment Service during my time of involvement with those government units.

      He had this amazing capacity to get on with people of all types and I liked him enormously.

      Kind regards
      Allan Barber

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