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Kato Kauwhata

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Kato Kauwhata

Whakaita (Kato) Kauwhata (Ngapuhi) was the venerable and much-loved chairman of Piritahi Marae and the island's most widely recognised kaumatua. He died on 11 November 2007 at his home in Rocky Bay with his family around him. He was taken that first night to lie on Piritahi Marae before being taken north to lie for 2 nights on his home marae in Nga Wha, Kaikohe. He was buried on the 14th of November in the Nga Wha urupa alongside his wife.

Kato is survived by both his son and daughter and over 40 grandchildren and greatgrandchildren. He moved to Waiheke in 1970 after the death of his wife and purchased his section in Rocky Bay where he lived for the rest of his life. He was Chairman of Piritahi Marae for much of the time from its start in 1971 through to his death. Kato was a long time member of the Buffalo Lodge and a member of the 28th Maori Battalion.

For many years Kato grew crops that he distributed to the community through the Marae. He was famous for his Kumara harvests that would provide the Marae annually with a full storehouse. He passed on his legacy to the children of Waiheke by involving them with annual plantings. As Kaumatua of both the bilingual units Nga Purapura Akoranga and Piringakau in the local schools, the love and respect for Kato held by the children of the island was demonstrated on the day of his leaving the island by the lining of the main road to the car ferry by all of the children from the Kindergarten, Waiheke High School and Te Huruhi Primary school. As his hearse passed spontaneous haka carried like a wave along the road carrying him on his journey.

His legacy still lives on in a healthy thriving Marae acting as a turangawaewae for the local Maori community as well as any one else wanting to spend time there. His grandson, Tomi Ropata, continues in the work started under Kato, of carving the Wharenui, Kia Piritahi.