The past two years were a waiting game – waiting for the chance that Rik’s tinana was better able to handle the big operation on his emphysematic lungs, and although Glyn asked him – ‘are you sure you want to do this Rik?’ His reply was “Too bloody right!” When Te Maire called from the hospital to say “Get back up here now, he’s going.” We moved fast.

In true Glyn style, she was preparing Rik to meet his Creator by putting back his choppers in his waha, combing his hair and was just finishing his morning shave when the nurse informed us: “Excuse me whānau, aroha mai, but Mr Tau has just passed!” That was at 3.15pm, Monday 30 June.

Rakihia and Maru were still in-flight, returning from Christchurch, to take up the weekly shift as planned. It was the boys’ wish that their father wouldn’t be by himself when he died as their Pōua Nuk had been. That was a regret Rik had about his father’s death and we weren’t about to have Rik die alone. He didn’t. He was surrounded by his whānau as we lovingly handed him to Ihoa with whakamoemiti.

“Silver and gold have I none, but what I have, I give to thee”. Rik was a very generous man. His generosity knew no bounds. And it really didn’t matter whether what he gave belonged to him either. “They wanted it so I gave it.” Much to the mortification of his wife and boys sometimes.

Aroha ki te tangata. Feed the people – it was as simple as that. That’s not to say that Rik was simple, but the lens by which he viewed the world just wasn’t complicated.

When Rik acquired his first computer, he complained that the coffee cup holder on it had broken and needed fixing. The CD Rom was never the same after that. “There’s something buggered up with the rabbit too,” he moaned. We simply replaced the mouse. His technical knowledge around the use of computers advanced though and before he went into hospital in Auckland, he checked his ‘air-mails’ daily. And often he would go into TPK and ask Mere if she would ‘photo-stat’ his papers for him. They’re gonna miss him for that – the girls in TPK. The girls also knew that he opted for the waiata kīnaki – Korōria. He happily sung it well and was very clear that he could, and boasted that his three big boys couldn’t.

“Two Legs, four legs, feathers or fur, scales or slime – I can survive off the whole lot,” he’d claim, and usually a meal at Rik’s was a banquet of them all. The only problem was that they just might all be in the same pot. His culinary skills in the condiment department was simply salt.

He was committed to “The Claim”. So much so, that he asked when I was hapū with his moko that I might consider calling her Te Kerēme. I said “Over my dead body.” The look in his eye was contemplative and I could see that he was actually trying to work out in his head which butcher knife would do the job cleanly and whether it needed to be sharpened.

Rik was a real man. A man’s man. A risk taker. Nothing puss about him. Hunter-gatherer extraordinaire. Fisherman of anything on or under the water. One of his last trips south to Makaawhio territory, nearly had Maru, Glyn and himself drown, as he had forgotten to plug-up the bottom of the boat they were all in.
His mutton-birding prowess had others talk of him scaling the cliffs of Pohowaitai carrying 80 birds on his back after a night’s birding. He averaged 350 birds a day. He was a legend. His total in one season was 6,700 and that was the record held for many years.

Tales by Maaka and Reriti of their escapades with Pōua driving his White Van were frightening – “Maaka took the wheel Mama, and I was doing the pedals.” They were both under 10 years of age at the time and Reriti is five years younger than Maaka.

Rik studied accountancy at Canterbury University and although fortune eluded him, he was rich beyond the bounds of the mighty dollar. A pōua, father, husband and partner, he also prided himself on being an extraordinary lover. The fruits of those labours created his four sons and eight mokopuna, who have all been taught how to catch, prepare, cook and feed the people. His pockets always had lollies in them too.

Rik had an opportunity to gain a better life and even with huge risks stacked against him, he chose to go for it. He had extraordinary courage and bet on the odds. Some might say that the risk was too high but Rik was never one to wimp out. He chose to fight for the right to live. While he didn’t win this fight, he leaves a huge legacy of courage and leadership for his sons and mokopuna to be very proud of. Thank you Rik, for being the only Pōua my baby knew – you made enough presence in her life for both her grandfathers. Nā Amiria Reriti.

Rik at Ratana Pā in the Temepara.

Rik at Ratana Pā in the Temepara.