Topics: Health, Housing

The continuing legacy of Princess Te Puea

By Mānia Clarke
  • Auckland
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty

Princess Te Puea played a significant role in shaping history in Aotearoa. 

She worked with leaders but was labelled a traitor because of her anti-government stance on Māori conscription during WWI. 

However, the legacy she left as a leader in the women's movement of the 1960's and 1970's, lifting the aspirations and health of Māori, continues at a South Auckland marae named in her honour.

It could be a sign of a greater things to come.

“The programme shows the good processes used to help our Māori whānau, whether that be with homelessness, mental illness and all their needs,” says Manaaki Tangata e Rua manager Hurimoana Dennis.

Marae caretaker Mona Kingi says it may not be picture-perfect yet but it's work in progress

“I hope we're doing Te Puea's job all these years and I'm quite proud to carry on her work,” she says.

To date the marae has helped 332 families since first opening their doors to the homeless in 2016.

But it should come as no surprise that the work started by Te Puea is etched on this marae.

Caring for the destitute and taking in the homeless was something Te Puea also believed in.

She went on to defy the government of the day by supporting and hiding Māori who did not want to fight in the First World War.

She was called a traitor but went on to build a marae and meeting place for Māori, Turangawaewae, and went on to strengthen the concept of Te Kiingitanga. 

“The essence of their success is that they are guided by the example of Te Puea,” says co-lead researcher Jenny Lee-Morgan.

“They are implementing her vision- work to meet the needs of the poor.”

And 125 years later the sacrifices made by Te Puea and many women like her have made inroads for women- but there is still a long way to go.