Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Minister Jackson acknowledges passing of Des Ratima

Minister for Māori Development, Willie Jackson, has acknowledged the passing of Ngāti Kahungungu leader and kaumatua, Des Ratima ONZM JP, who died on Sunday aged 69.

Des came from a military, trade and political background and had wide experience with local, regional and central government.

The Ngāti Kahungunu, Te Rangikoianake, Rongowhakaata Te Whānau A Kai descendant studied at Church College in Hamilton and then joined the New Zealand Army where he spent 25 years eventually becoming regimental Sergeant Major for the Royal New Zealand Mechanical and Electrical Engineers and also helping to establish the first military marae in Waiouru in 1995.

He stood for the Alliance Party in the general election in 1999, just missing out on becoming a Member of Parliament after being ranked number 13 on the list, Des was then elected Mana Motuhake Vice President in 2001.

“Politics is where I first met Des and he became a great friend and ally. He was such a courageous and principled man. Never afraid to take on the authorities or advocate for the underdog. He had mates right across the political spectrum and was the consummate presenter and frontman. It seemed at times that Des was always available for anyone who was in trouble,” Willie Jackson said.

After his army career, he moved to Whakatu in Hastings along with his wife Evelyn, where they set about elevating and developing the Whakatu community.

Des organised the inaugural Whakatu Christmas in the Park event in 2003, and he chaired the Whakatu Kohanga Reo, reviving it from a struggling early childhood education provider to a successful learning nest. He also chaired Te Kupenga a Maui and Whaea o te Ara Police committees helping to develop strategies to reduce the number of Māori involved in crime. He did so much work in Whakatu that he became affectionately known as the “Mayor of Whakatu”.

He became a Justice of the Peace in 2016, and in 2018, he was recognised on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, where he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori. Also in 2018, he was named Hawke’s Bay Leader of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce. In 2019, he was one of the featured presenters in the acclaimed movie ‘Soldiers without Guns’, which told the story of the unique and peaceful approach taken by the New Zealand Defence force in Bougainville in 1997.

Des chaired the post-settlement entity Ahuriri District Health Trust, having previously been a negotiating member of the claims committee.

“He worked with Māori Wardens regionally and was deputy chairman of New Zealand Māori Council during which time he reorganised the local structure and created the Takitimu District Māori Wardens.

“He had been a cultural and environmental adviser for regional and district councils and a member of the Hawke’s Bay DHB Māori Relationship Board and a leading advocate for change in the community with Oranga Tamariki.

“Des was a great leader, advocate and friend to many people, including myself. It was an honour to have known him and my condolences go out to Evelyn and the whānau during this sad time,” Willie Jackson said.

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