Minister for Māori Development, Willie Jackson, has acknowledged the passing of 83-year-old Te Arawa kaumatua, Ta Noble Sir Thomas Toby Curtis (KNZM), who passed away last week at his Lake Rotoiti home.
The Ngati Pikiao, Ngati Rongomai descendant was knighted in 2014, for his services to Māori education.
“Ta Toby was a leader of the highest calibre, articulate, a man of vision and had great mana amongst the various iwi and hāpū of Te Arawa. This is a huge loss for Māoridom and my condolences goes out to his whānau, friends and iwi,” said Mr Jackson.
Born near the shores of Lake Rotoehu, Ta Toby would go on to lead an illustrious career through his many roles within the education and governance sector.
In 1966, he married Mary Agnes Sharry, and the couple went on to have four children.
Ta Toby began his career as a primary school teacher and worked with intellectually disabled children before progressing to become principal of Hato Petera College and vice-principal of Auckland Teachers’ College.
In the 1990s he was Auckland College of Education Primary Teacher Education director, Faculty Dean of the Auckland Institute of Technology and was appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Auckland University of Technology in 2000. He was appointed chair of the Iwi Education Authority for Ngā Kura-ā-Iwi o Aotearoa in 2012, and served on the council of Te Wananga o Aotearoa.
He was heavily involved in Māori broadcasting, and in 1997 was appointed chairman of Te Māngai Pāho, the Māori Broadcasting Agency. He chaired a Maori broadcasting advisory committee in the late 1980s, which led to the establishment of Radio Aotearoa, iwi radio stations and Māori Television.
“Ta Toby was the chair of Te Arawa Lakes Trust, was a member of the Iwi Chairs Forum, and also served on the Police Commissioner’s Māori Focus Forum.”
“He was very active in his community in leadership roles such as the chair of the Te Arawa Māori Trust Board. A position he only just stepped down from in April this year.
“The leadership legacy Ta Toby leaves behind is best described in his own words which were that a modern Māori society can only flourish by adopting a more authentic mātauranga Māori approach,” Minister Jackson said.