Norman George: Carrying the big artillery of the nation

Tuesday April 21, 2020 Published in Editorials

OPINION: The gift of leadership is a rare combination of talent, perseverance, good fortune and sometimes luck.   Some people are born into greatness.  Others have greatness thrust upon them.  The rest had to work to earn it.


We are very lucky that people who are not born here choose to live and invest here, to become part of our nation-building family. One such man is Big Bill Doherty. A veteran of the Vietnam war, a machine-gunner with the New Zealand Army, Bill is a fearsome-looking man with an overpowering physique – not to be messed with unless you can outrun him (he has a bad knee). 

Picture Bill in his prime, carrying a heavy-duty machine gun with bullet belts hanging on each shoulder, patrolling inside the jungle in camouflaged uniform.

Bill came to Rarotonga in the 1970s. He worked in construction.  One of the buildings his firm constructed was the Bank of the Cook Islands.  

He created Landholdings as his base company, then expanded his business empire with turnkey private home constructions and renovation work, then branched into road construction and drainlaying.  

Bill further expanded into commercial deep sea coastal fishing for the local market and for export to New Zealand. Many fish-lovers will go hungry when Bill's fishing boats are late! He is also quick to remove the odd fishing boat that his crew accidentally land on the reef.

Bill never speaks the Queen's English on his work sites.  Instead, you are likely to hear expletives, creative adjectives, with unforgettables ... But without doubt, he can turn on the charm when needed. Apart from the ability to walk on eggs without cracking them, Bill must have the right decorum to walk away with so many highly priced contracts. Surprisingly, Bill is not a social bumble bee !  I have only ever seen him drink at Trader Jacks, usually in his work clothes! 



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Bill employs a lot of Cook Islanders.  My brother Randolf subcontracts with Bill to do his electrical work.   They all think the world of Big Bill Doherty. Brother Bill you are truly and solidly one gigantic tamanu tree embedded in the history of a country you helped develop! Don't stop!

We now come off the business highway to mention some of our past leaders. Vaine Tairea was MP for Ma‘uke, Minister of Agriculture, and quite an orator. He acted as the Rottweiler defender of prime minister Sir Geoffrey Henry: whenever the prime minister was criticised, Vaine treated it as a direct attack on Ma‘uke, so out he comes with the artillery.  

Vaine spent his youth in Wellington. He worked at the freezing works and held quite a top position there.

I believe he is a musician and played in a band. He married into the Maoate family in Ngatangiia.  

When he shifted back to the Cook Islands, he worked in a number of his own plantations.  I did see Vaine driving his tractor many times.  

Some Ministers have nicknames. Vaine’s one was Pute meaning many things he said were rocks in a sack, needing accurate fact checks. But he was great fun and a very pleasant likeable person.

Papa Vainerere Tangatapoto was the Supreme Leader of the people of Atiu in the 1950s and 60s. He was headmaster of the Atiu Primary School, captain of the Atiu Boys Brigade, and founded the Atiu Girls Brigade.

He was chief orator for all major events in Atiu. Papa Vaine was very religious – divinity followed him everywhere. He headed the Atiu contingent to the centennial celebrations of the founding of the Boys Brigade movement in London in the 1950's. That only increased his prestige and standing. He was a good builder and carpenter. He renovated Atiu Church in his time.

In 1965, Papa Vaine was elected to the Legislative Assembly.  He retired in 1983, to make way for his nephew –and the nephew’s name? Norman George.  

Papa Vaine had unwavering trust in God, he kept Atiu united and respectful. 

Ka kite.




1 comment

  • Comment Link Nio Tuesday, 21 April 2020 11:58 posted by Nio

    Born for God,Live for God,Die for God
    Anau no te Atua,Ora no te Atua,Mate no te Atua

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