Minister for Māori Development, Willie Jackson, today acknowledged the passing of a leader and a staunch advocate for Māori social values, Neville Baker, who has died aged 82.
The Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Mutunga and Te Ātiawa kaumātua, was a former deputy secretary of the Department of Māori Affairs, Māori Trustee and in recent years also acted as an advisor to the Chief Ombudsman and Royal Commission on Abuse in State Care even as he entered hospice.
“Neville was actually an advocate and advisor right across Te Ao Māori it seemed he was involved everywhere, he was a director on the Waitangi Tribunal, the Māori Land Court, a director on the Police Commissioner’s Māori Leaders Forum, an advisor in Corrections, Kōhanga Reo, and he was also the chairman of the Port Nicholson Trust,” Minister Jackson said.
“Neville also did a great job alongside his whanaunga Kara Puketapu, looking after his Te Ātiawa whānau in Wellington.
“That was the calibre of Neville, putting the needs of our people before his own. He was a great man who will be sorely missed by his whānau, friends and his community.”
Neville believed Māori were overrepresented in the social welfare system and the way to stop that was to change who made the decisions at the community level, Mr Jackson said. Māori needed to take control from the government agencies and make the decision about what was best for our people, he said.
“It was this sort of straight-talking and common sense approach that saw Neville chosen along with several high-powered people such as John Rangihau, Emarina Manuel, Donna Hall, Hori Brennan, Peter Boag and John Grant to produce a report into the effect the Social Welfare system was having on Māori.”
“In 1988, their report Pūao-te-Āta-tū was praised for its thorough research, its insight and its sheer common sense. Even up until recently, he was advocating for the 13 recommendations from the Pūao-te-Āta-tū report to be implemented into the Oranga Tamariki report saying ‘you’ve got to go back sometimes to go forward’,” Minister Jackson said.
Mr Baker’s funeral service will be held today at the Waiwhetu Marae in Lower Hutt, where he was chairman for 30 years.