E mihi ana ki a koutou i runga i ngā tini āhuatanga o te wā.

When I think about the true meaning of leadership, I always think about our kaumātua. Many of our kaumātua are our role models, who provide advice and guide us in shaping our future. They act as the support person and strong backbone we need to ensure we achieve our goals and most importantly in setting the foundations for future generations.

For this month’s column, I would like to pay tribute to one of our well respected leaders and much loved tāua, Aunty Mori Pickering (née Ellison), who died on Saturday 9 March aged 103. Mori Mervyn Coral Mei Pickering was born on 6 April, 1909. Her mother was Horiwa Timoti Karetai of Ngāi Tahu (Ōtākou) and her father was Teiwi Mereke Hereke Hapi Ellison of Te Ātiawa (Taranaki). Aunty Mori was raised by her mother’s sister, Arihi Timoti Karetai on the Taiaroa Heads in Ōtākou. She attended the local schools and furthered her education at Te Waipounamu College in Christchurch. Mori married George Pickering in October 1963. They raised their two daughters, Aroha and Talei, in Ōtākou.

Aunty Mori was a treasure trove of 103 years of history and experiences. She had a strong connection and involvement with the Methodist Church, travelling the world with the Methodist Māori Youth Choir and performing in front of dignitaries and royalty. She also worked on the family farm, and in various roles in the Māori welfare sector. Mori and George worked tirelessly at the rūnanga level and in the wider community, encouraging rangatahi to pursue their dreams and hold fast to their values. She was a strong advocate of cultural revitalisation, especially among her Ōtākou people.

Like many of our kaumātua, Aunty Mori was and still is a great role model, especially to our rangatahi. We need to ensure we treasure our kaumātua while they are still here with us. I truly believe spending time with kaumātua, just listening and talking with them, is beneficial and you can learn so much from their experiences.

Aunty Mori showed true leadership to her people by just being there for anyone and everyone. She lived by her values and always shared these with others. She had a big heart and a special love for her people. She was a lady with grace, humility and mana.

E Te Whatukura a Takaroa,
Ko mū te reo i Pukekura
Kāore ia nei, he tohu o te mate
Tērā te mākaka tōroa
Ko tīkina e te hau
E rere ki te raki
Ki te kāhui manu tīoriori o Paerau
Nāhau te ara i para, mā mātou
Me pēhea hoki te whakakī
I o paparahi?
Haere atu rā ki Te Ariki
Ki o mātua tīpuna
Kia au te moe, kia au te moe,
E oki i tō okika roa.