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Te Tika dies suddenly

Friday 17 June 2011 | Published in Regional


The country mourns the loss of not one but two of its most prominent and progressive leaders this week.

Te Tika Mataiapo Dorice Reid died at 1am yesterday in Auckland Hospital, not 24 hours after the death of Sir Apenera Short in his Muri home. She would have been 68 next week.

She wore many hats, and the Cook Islands will remember her as an outspoken advocate of the arts, an environmental lobbyist, an influential traditional leader and a successful businesswoman.

Dorice was born on Rarotonga to Ruby Peyroux (nee Matamua) and Leo Morrel. She left Rarotonga when she was just eight, but her dream was always to return to her enua.

Dorice worked in a number of industries she was a regional sales representative for Air New Zealand, a talk show host on Radio Pacific and a journalist for South Pacific television. Her influence in the Auckland community was almost as far-reaching as her influence in her own country, and she was the first Pacific Islands woman to be nominated to run for the New Zealand parliament on the National ticket.

She returned to Rarotonga in 1983.

She was marketing and sales manager for the Cook Islands Tourist Authority and in 1985 purchased the Little Polynesian Resort with her sister, the late Jeannine Peyroux. Under Dorices direction, the resort won two consecutive World Travel Awards for being the leading Cook Islands boutique hotel.

In the late 1980s the people of Takitumu asked Dorice to take on the Te Tika Mataiapo title the legacy of a fearless warrior, Te Tika. She was invested at Marae Te Pou Toru.

For the past 15 years Te Tika has held the prestigious position of president of the Koutu Nui. Under her guidance, the Koutu Nui supported environmental initiatives Te Tika often said that the Cook Islands people are the custodians of this land, and should care for it accordingly and the promotion of Cook Islands culture.

She was instrumental in re-introducing the raui system to the Cook Islands.

Multiple times Te Tika declined to run for the Cook Islands Parliament, as she preferred not to confuse her role as a traditional leader with politics.

Te Tika actively promoted Cook Islands culture and lobbied to preserve tradition. Alongside chiefs of other Polynesian nations, Te Tika visited Taputapuatea on Raiatea multiple times.

She was the only female crew member on a three-and-a-half month voyage aboard Te Au O Tonga to Raiatea, Tahiti, Nuku Hiva and Hawaii in 1995.

She did another voyage in 2002 from Rarotonga to Tahiti, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora and Mitiaro.

Te Tika described her experience atop Te Moana Nui O Kiva at a UNESCO conference in Japan as a spiritual voyage, one that served to reinforce, to reaffirm and to validate traditional knowledge, traditional science (and) the brilliance of our ancestors.

Te Tika was a long-time member of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society executive committee and a great supporter of Te Mana o Te Moana, the voyage to Hawaii and beyond that is currently underway.

Her presence on the committee will be greatly and sadly missed, e aka tumurakau tei inga! CIVS president Ian Karika said in an email to society members. She was always a strong supporter of whatever we were doing and a very dear friend of Papa Toms as well, he added.

She was a Justice of the Peace and a member of five environmental agencies.

Earlier this year the New Zealand High Commissioners office confirmed her appointment as the next Cook Islands High Commissioner to New Zealand, and she was to take up the Wellington post next month. She had planned to come back to Rarotonga after her Auckland trip this week.

Te Tika leaves two nieces and a nephew behind, and a void in the hearts of hundreds of Polynesian people around the world.