The Nation is in mourning over the loss of the beloved iconic wahine toa, Ngati Te Ata i Rehia leader Kahurangi Nganeko Minhinnick.
On Thursday 15 June, the Waiuku Kaumatua passed away at the age of 77. 
“Dame Nganeko was a magnanimous leader who spent a lifetime dedicated to the pursuit of justice on whenua and environmental issues for her people of Ngati Te Ata and Waikato iwi. I was privileged along with many others to have shared a very special relationship with her – as a mentor and whanaunga, and tonight I am at a loss to describe the depth of sadness I feel knowing another of our great leaders has passed over,” says Maori Party Co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell.
Dame Nganeko had a long track record of fighting for the rights of her whanau, hapu, iwi and tangata whenua and her knighthood in 2013 was celebrated and acknowledged far and wide.
In April this year, the Post Newspaper reported on how

Dame Nganeko was recognised for her work on embedding Maori ideals within New Zealand’s planning discourse, and how she was recognised accordingly through statutory processes.  It was upon this work that Papa Pounamu and the New Zealand Planning Institute recognised her with a national Outstanding Service Award.

“There was another side to her and that was her love for her whanau. Nothing was more important to her than whānau and I want to acknowledge their huge loss as well, says Maori Party Co-leader Marama Fox.
“In 1985, Dame Nganeko helped lead the charge for the Manukau Claim that was brought to the Waitangi Tribunal and set unprecedented benchmarks for the protection of the natural resources of the Manukau Harbour,” Ms Fox says.
“This triggered a landslide of environmental policy discussions on the Auckland Councils’ poor water quality management and the deterioration of the harbour as an ecosystem,” Ms Fox says.
Mr Flavell says, the undesirable response from the Auckland Council and the New Zealand Government compelled Dame Nganeko to seek an international and indigenous understanding within the United Nations.
“Dame Nganeko’s relationship to the whenua and the environment was something that came naturally to her and her name is synonymous with kaitiakitanga, a concept she both lived and embodied,” Mr Flavell says.
Ms Fox says Dame Nganeko had a beautiful ahua, was a fierce warrior and a natural leader whose reputation and feats were the kind of things legends are made of.
“This was no surprise considering she descended from a line of leaders who fought for land, environment and Maori rights.
I recall the stories of Dame Nganeko’s great-grandfather Ahipene Kaihau, who in 1862 chaired the Ngati Te Ata Runanga and its purpose was to settle land matters,” Ms Fox says.
“Then there was Henare Kaihau, the Western Maori MP from 1896 to 1911, who fought in Parliament to address raupatu and the return of confiscated lands.”
Mr Flavell says, Dame Nganeko began her dedication to Maori and conservation activism as an 11-year-old, growing up in Waiuku as part of a whanau of 15.
“She was asked to go to the Maori Land Court by her kaumatua to become informed about land grievances of Ngati Te Ata.
From that point on she was encouraged to translate te reo Maori into English for her mother and kaumatua as they navigated the system,” Mr Flavell says.
Ms Fox says, Dame Nganeko was also well known for being part of the founding voices of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
“She travelled to the United Nations to ensure at an international level indigenous people were heard by decision makers,” Ms Fox says.
“She did all of these feats but continued to remain humble, courageous, articulate and respected and her legacy will long be remembered as the history books recall and retell this remarkable life of utmost dedication and service to her people, the whenua and the environment,” says Mr Flavell.
Dame Nganeko will be buried at her marae cemetery Te Iti o Tahuna.