Tears and tributes flow for Vapnierka (Vapi) Kupenga

By Numia Ponika-Rangi
  • North Island: East Coast

"She is Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Porou is her!"  A statement that best describes Vapnierka (Vapi) Kupenga who passed away last night.

Well-known throughout NZ and abroad as a battler and staunch advocate for the rights of indigenous peoples.

She lived a life dedicated to her people of Ngāti Porou, her Māori people and those in need.

Tears and tributes flow today for Vapnierka who was never afraid to tackle a wide range of issues with a wide range of people, including guests on her Radio Waatea show, 'Te Puna Kōrero'.

Hailing from Hiruharama Marae on the East Coast, the native speaker was fiercely loyal to her tribe and until recently, chaired the Ngāti Porou ki Tāmaki Taura Here.

Widely known by many as 'Aunty Vapi', the talented mother and grandmother also maintained a strong interest in the arts, playing a cameo role as a kuia in the 2001 New Zealand feature film, Crooked Earth.

Ngāti Porou elder Kuni Jenkins expressed that, "The passing of this great lady brings great sadness.  She was a staunch advocate for the Māori language and culture, Such a great loss."

A staunch woman who promoted the language, culture and protocols of Ngāti Porou everywhere she went and in every situation she faced.

Mōari broadcaster Willie Jackson says, "She was the first Māori woman to work on talkback, on Radio Pacific with Pat Hohepa.

She also worked for Aotearoa Radio and Radio Waatea.  We were blessed to have her, a woman of many skills, and a battler for women's rights."

Vapi was 68 years old when she passed and she will be laid to rest on Saturday at 11am in Ruatōria.