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Another storyteller in the whanau

Rongowhakaata kaumatua Stan Pardoe discusses his world and his life.

Stan Pardoe, a prominent figure in the Turanganui-a-Kiwa community, has published a book about his life and his world. Matai O’Connor spoke with him the day after his book launch to learn more about the stories many people do not know.

“I wrote this book because of the lady sitting in there,” Rongowhakaata kaumatua Stan Pardoe said, pointing to his wife Molly.

Stanley Joseph Pardoe was born in Gisborne on December 13, 1940 — the first child of Ereti and Eric Pardoe of Manutuke.

He started life in Te Reinga which is in between Gisborne and Wairoa on the inland Tiniroto Road. He was a rural person and life was simple, he says.

“We had a lot of freedom.”

Stan was raised by his grandmother Wairakau.

“She was a great storyteller. She would tell me all the stories about my whanau.”

This meant that at family events Stan could often relate stories from grandparents, uncles, aunts, kaumatua and others who he had the good fortune to have had contact with while growing up in Manutuke.

Molly would tell him to write down the stories because “you come from an interesting family and have a background that your mokopuna, nieces, nephews and other family relations have little or no knowledge of”.

Sharing these stories to future generations was important, he said.

His father was Eric Pardoe, a Pakeha, and his mother Ereti Onekawa was Maori.

“The Maori world was always part of who we were, from the marae and its associated activities,” Stan said.

His nana Wairakau started taking Stan to land block meetings and other hui.

As people stood to speak she would explain to Stan their whakapapa, so he could learn.

When travelling she would point out various places where his whanau lived, and tell the stories about them and the whenua.

She often said to him “none of my family is interested in my whenua. I will spend many years taking you to hui and sharing my stories of our tipuna and the value of the whenua”.

“Months later she would ask me to repeat the whakapapa of a person we met at a hui. I would concentrate and give it my best shot; her studied response would be ‘ka pai moko . . . hika you missed two generations',” Stan said.

Through the repetition of hearing the stories, they would be in his consciousness.

“She would often test me by giving a description or name of someone, and I would have to answer who they were and how they fit in to whakapapa.”

He said the stories shared in the book were his Nan's story and they were ones that needed to be shared.

“Surprisingly, I never forgot and many years later I still chuckle when I see a person who is a relation and all these lessons come flooding back to me,” he said.

Stan started at Te Reinga Native School in 1945.

“It was one of the few schools at that time that had a school bus,” he said.

All of the children at the school were related by blood.

“It was a wonderful time at Te Reinga — there was always something to do or explore.”

A new chapter begins in Manutuke

A new chapter of his life started when he moved to Papatu Road in Manutuke later that year. He would spend the rest of his childhood growing up in Manutuke.

He has all sorts of stories in his book about the different activities he and other children would get up to in the rural community.

One story he recounts is of his first encounter with inequality.

“We didn't realise until years later that the playing field was not even,” Stan said.

“The district nurse visited on a regular basis to check our health. After the usual check-up we were lined up and given a big spoon of cod liver oil. I don't remember the spoon being wiped.

“Our hands and finger nails were inspected and a handkerchief was pinned on our shirt for the day.

“Then the infamous kutu check. The nurse and a teacher with a pencil and ruler would check our hair.

“I noticed that Pakeha boys' hair was not inspected. When I asked why, the response was ‘that only Maori have kutu, not these children'.

“There was only one Maori boy who was exempt, because his aunty was a school teacher. He was always embarrassed when I reminded him of this,” Stan said.

His ability to recount stories that are over 70 years old is somewhat of a marvel.

In his book he names nearly everybody he has interacted with throughout his life.

One of these stories talks about the health issues of polio and tuberculosis (TB) in the Manutuke community.

“There was only one young person in Manutuke to contract polio,” he said.

A lot of older people had TB.

“Many homes had these small little huts to separate them at night from their whanau.

“Most wore a big, warm overcoat with big pockets.

“Many were told by district nurses that spitting spread TB, so they carried small jars with screw tops and used them as spittoons.

“They were always discreet when doing this and we were never allowed to look at or touch these containers. They were emptied down the long drop toilets.

“It was a sad era — by the late 1950s they had all passed away,” he said.

“Today when I see a young person wearing a big, old overcoat I think of these kaumatua and their slow decline until TB killed them.”

He spent third form at Gisborne High School then in 1956 went to Te Aute College in Napier.

“The week before I left, I had watched a film about escaping from Colditz prison. When I turned up at Te Aute College I thought to myself ‘why have mum and dad sent me to Colditz?', but I quickly settled in as a fourth former,” he said.

There were two courses at the college, agriculture and professional studies. Coming from a rural farming background he chose the agriculture course.

Te Aute was an Anglican Church boarding school for Maori boys.

“I enjoyed my time at Te Aute — it made me what I became. I made lifelong friends, even though many have passed on.”

Jumping a few decades forward, Stan became very busy from 1986 through to 2018 with a lot of roles and paid positions within family land trust and runanga.

“My involvement with iwi whenua included being Mangaotane Farm Trust trustee in 1990 and then becoming the chairman from 1996 to 2000, Arai Matawai management committee member from 1989, as well as the Pakarae management committee from 1986 to 2020 and Tapere Incorporation management committee from 2000.”

Stan was asked to join the Manutuke Church Restoration Trust, restoring the Toko Toru Tapu.

“It was a 10-year journey.”

He played a part in setting up Te Runanga o Turanganui a Kiwa (TROTAK).

As a result of a hui taumata and many meetings, the three iwi of Turanga — Rongowhakaata, Ngai Tamanuhiri and Te Aitanga a Mahaki — came together to form an entity that would act and be the collective voice of their people.

Stan was also part of the inception of Moana Pacific. He spent 12 years as a director of Moana Pacific, which became one of the biggest inshore fishing companies in New Zealand.

He became heavily involved with Rongowhakaata and the pending Treaty of Waitangi claims process.

Stan wrote about the politics he encountered during the settlements and what was needed to be done to get the Treaty of Waitangi claims processed correctly.

He later became an iwi representative on Gisborne District Council's Wastewater Management Committee in 2008.

Recently Stan has been involved with Historic Places Tairawhiti, joining groups going to history-rich places in the region.

“Visiting the many places with an appreciative, attentive group gave me pleasure.

“I could always sense Wairakau on my shoulder, smiling and saying ‘kei te pai e moko me to korero. Ae, another storyteller',” Stan said.

■ To get a copy of Stan Pardoe's autobiography Taku Ao, Taku Ora — My World, My Life contact his wife Molly Pardoe on 027 365 2927.

TAKU AO, TAKU ORA: Stan Pardoe has written an autobiography about his life and world he lives in. Picture by Liam Clayton