Over the 2014 Christmas break, we lost special kaumātua, Uncle Hori Briggs, Uncle Kenna Rakena, Aunty Mavis Karena and Melville Rehu.

Rakena Piripi Rakena 1921-2014
Long-time resident of Rāpaki, Rakena Piripi Rakena was born in 1921 at Te Kōpua to Sarah Mabel Couch of Rāpaki and Reverend Rakena Piripi Rakena of Mangamuka.

The eldest of 11 siblings, and known as Kena to whānau and friends, Rakena was raised in Rāpaki by Tāua Kiti Couch and as a pā boy, he attended Rāpaki School and Lyttelton High School.

In 1942, he enrolled in the New Zealand Armed Forces but later transferred to the Royal New Zealand Air Force. He served in the Pacific Islands during World War II as Flight Sergeant Kena Rakena.

In 1950, Kena married Joan Grennell, who through her dad, has connections to Port Levy and through her mum, to Tuahiwi.

They built their family home in Rāpaki and raised three girls and two boys. After the war he began work as a clerk for Inland Revenue, where he remained until his retirement.

For a time he was the secretary/treasurer for Rāpaki Rūnanga and he kept meticulous accounts and records.

“Dad played a mean tune on the piano and also the clarinet. He was keen on rugby, racing and a beer man, and a life member of the Lyttelton Rugby Football Club. When he passed away on 13 November 2014 at the age of 93, we looked back on his life achievements and we are proud to say “Wow. What a life – you can rest easy now dad, forever our rock.” Nā Paula Rakena.

Rakena Piripi Rakena.

Rakena Piripi Rakena.

Melville Rehu
Nuk Korako shares his memories of Melville from his tangi.

Melville Rehu was a true son of Rāpaki and Ngāi Tahu. A beloved son, brother, father, uncle, mate, maritime seaman, salesman, fisheries officer, environmental caretaker, submission/policy/legislation writer for Rāpaki, Ngāi Tahu and Te Iwi Māori Customary Rights.

Melville Wiremu Rehu was born on 21 August 1947 to Te Ruatu Whenua (Uncle When) and Maata Hana Toko Rehu (Aunty Sweet) and brother to, Suzie, John, Tiramorehu (Maurice), Manaia and Wiki. Mel also leaves an only son, George.

His two greatest achievements – and there were many – was leading from behind in formulating the first Mataitai Customary Fishing Reserve in New Zealand, which was gazetted under the South Island Customary Fishing Regulations in December 1998.

It was lodged by Uncle Bill Gillies and Henry Couch as a result of the many years of hard background work by Melville.

His second major achievement was his relationship with the rakatahi of Rāpaki. He always worked to ensure they looked to this place as their safe harbour or haven as he always did. He talked of what he called ‘Rāpaki’s finest’ – our young ones – and you will find that they always looked up to him as an icon of this place; they loved listening to his stories of Rāpaki and his journeys to places afar.

Melville told me only a few months ago to read Mark Twain’s, Sail Away and I quote.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Melville said, “But always know that you can return to your safe harbour, which is Rāpaki, this place and that is why we need to keep it in a way that our kids want to come back home.”