Topics: Education, Environment, Health

Sawmill workers against poisons advocate dies at 70

By Mere McLean
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty

Hohepa Joseph Harawira QSM, advocate for Sawmill Workers against poisons (SWAP) died yesterday.  For more than two decades, Harawira of Ngāti Awa worked tirelessly in order to achieve medical support for sawmill workers exposed to dioxins such as PCP.  Today he was brought onto his marae, Te Whare o Toroa near Whakatāne.

Hohepa Joseph Harawira was an educator, battler and gentle giant.

Manu Paul (Ngāti Awa) says, “He was a hard worker, had a very gentle nature nurturing towards people.”

Youngest son of Fred Turumakina and Susie Koau Harawira and his family are bereft at his passing.

Family spokesperson Joe Harawira told Te Kāea, “His death was very sudden, he died yesterday morning. I did not believe that it was him.” 

Mr Harawira was at the forefront in getting the New Zealand government to admit that they were at fault when sawmill workers were exposed to poisons while on the job. He was among those who suffered from illnesses caused by exposure to pentachlorophenol and dioxins. 

“This is why I have deep affection for him because I knew the illnesses he suffered which is why he was so steadfast on lifting his group SWAP,” says Paul.

Mr Harawira will remain on Toroa Marae until his funeral day on Thursday.