The loss of Ngaati Te Ata Waiohua kaumaatua, George Flavell QSM, will be deeply felt, Auckland Council said in a statement this morning following his passing.
Franklin Local Board Waiuku subdivision representative, Sharlene Druyen says she was in awe of his generosity of spirt.
“George was beyond generous with his time, was endlessly patient and always willing to share his genuine affection for not just his own Ngaati Te Ata tangata, but all people.”
“His love of the land was unrivalled and there is a wonderful whakataukii that sums him up beautifully. Kāore te kumara e kōrero mō tōna ake reka – the kumara does not say how sweet he is.”
“George’s humility was inspiring, and his passion for the land equally so.”
Awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for his commitment to the protection of Māori cultural sites and important locations within the of Ngaati Te Ata rohe, he was also a master carver who willingly passed on his skills to a new generation.
Franklin Ward Councillor, Andy Baker says his astonishing knowledge of history and paa sites underpinned his love for conservation.
“I don’t believe you could count the number of hours he committed to documenting sites of special significance, protecting their management from anything that might put them at risk.”
“He was the educational resource for the iwi, and we feel the pain and join in the mourning for the loss of a truly great yet humble leader.”
When he received the QSM, he told an interviewer the award stood with climbing Taranaki as a 76-year-old as highlights of his life, but quickly added, only alongside “applying tikanga to every mahi we engage in”.
Board chair, Angela Fulljames says in honouring his passing, there needed to be recognition that his journey was not without obstacles, some put in place by councils and the like.
“The strength he exhibited in raising awareness around cultural values and land preservation appeared to know no bounds.”
“His gentle persuasion, humility and kindness hid a steely determination that was at the heart of his mahi over many years, years that educated board members, councillors, farmers and especially children at kura about sites special to iwi.”
George believed in creating relationships and I recall him saying: He waka eke noa – we are all in the waka together. The words would be delivered with a little smile that reached his eyes and filled you with hope.”
He leaves a legacy at the tip of the Aawhitu, where he was involved in the Mahanihani restoration project, complete with carved pou.
Born in 1936, George was the eldest son of Bill and Kahurimu Flavell – a name that derives from d’Flavelle, the ancestors who fled France for England during the French Revolution, going on to arrive in Aotearoa early in the 1800s.
George’s early interest in creating things continued throughout a life that despite his other commitments also saw him made a life member of the Waiuku Museum Society, and an expert on whaanau whakapapa, west Franklin geography and the environment.
As a recognised Ngaati te Ata historian, he also represented the iwi at indigenous leader hui, including in Hawaii in 2018.
During his QSM interview he was asked his hopes for the future, replying simply, “educating our next generation of rangatahi to keep the fires burning”.
Kua hinga te totara i te wao nui a Tane – The totara has fallen in the forest of Tane.