Mentor for life
Good men don’t do what they do for recognition or awards.
But Taka Mackey, life member of Rangataua o Aotearoa (ROA) and mentor for 43 years in that discipline which unites martial arts and alternative education through a Maori lens, has been recognised as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Takapuna (Taka) Eruete Whaipooti Mackey was born on September 26, 1957, at Waipiro Bay on the East Coast.
Of Ngati Porou descent, he was the sixth of seven children of Ihaka (Nobby) Te Roha Parae Mackey and Rangi Hawea Mackey née Whaipooti. The other children were Pani, Witawaho (Wi), Timoti, Walter, Ruby and Matire (Tum).
Taka was raised in Ruatoria and educated at Manutahi School (1964-1970) and Ngata Memorial College (1971-1975) and joined the workforce as a New Zealand Post Office lineman in Wellington in 1976.
He was a member of Rangataua o Aotearoa Maori Martial Arts and Cultural Arts under Rangitukutuku the late Rangitihi Tahuparae from its inception in 1977 and founded the Gisborne ROA in 1978. New Zealand has three branches of ROA: in Wellington, Gisborne and Ruatoki.
Taka Mackey played rugby for Horouta and between 1983 and 1986 represented Poverty Bay as a loose forward.
He married Patricia Ngarui Hayes at Omarumutu Marae in Opotiki in 1984. They have four daughters — Melissa, Maiangi, Natalie and Ihipera.
Melissa Mackey-Huriwai is now the chief instructor of the ROA and — with her daughter Ishtar, 13 — has seen the Mackey family’s involvement with ROA span three generations.
Gisborne ROA has 60 active members, aged from five to 45. Both Melissa and Ishtar are preparing to compete in the Vendetta fight night in Timaru on November 28.
Taka Mackey joined the New Zealand Army in 1989 and the Special Air Service (SAS) in 1991. He left the army in 2003.
Melissa Mackey-Huriwai and ROA Pouwhenua Zac Te Maro nominated Taka Mackey for inclusion in the Queen’s honours list.
Taka Mackey has affected the lives of thousands of young men and women for the better during his involvement with ROA.
“Having been an instructor with Taka, I’ve seen him get the best out of people, some of whom had their challenges,” Te Maro said.
“And having the trust of parents and families — even just being worthy of and repaying that trust — takes a certain type of mentor, who can build relationships and bridge the divide across culture, creed and gender.”
Braedyn Grant, 19, spoke of Mackey as having affected his life through ROA.
“I’m very grateful to Taka for the things he taught me and I’ll always be proud of the impact that ROA had on me,” Grant said.
“I learned about discipline and self-control at ROA. Taka put a lot of time and effort into everyone who joined the club. He knew what he was doing and made sure to pass on as much as he could to us. It was hard work, but fun at the same time. He was our fighting coach/parent and every day there was something new to learn.”
Introducing ROA to the region, Taka aimed to guide and support people according to the purposes and aims of the discipline — to channel mankind’s “restless, intrinsic aggression to benefit the community in eliminating poverty, ignorance, disease, exploitation and injustice by an efficient alternative education programme”.
Taka Mackey has represented New Zealand in the martial arts and is the vice-president of the New Zealand Muay Thai Federation, having served on its committee since 2015.
He oversees security at Gisborne’s Rhythm and Vines (R&V) festival, a national event attended by thousands of predominantly young people and held annually at the Waiohika Estate building up to the New Year.
“Taka’s been our head of security for more than a decade,” R&V chief executive and festival director Kieran Spillane said.
“He and his large team of locally recruited, Gisborne-based security staff provide an essential service for the smooth running of R&V every year. His experience, expertise and decency shine through.
“He has a great relationship with the young people attending our festival and treats them in a respectful, fair and professional manner, understanding that they’re in Gisborne to have an epic time.
“We at R&V are absolutely delighted that Taka’s service to the young people of New Zealand has been recognised with such an honour. It’s an outstanding achievement by an outstanding individual.”
The Tairawhiti area police commander also holds Mackey in high regard.
“Taka’s a man of few words, whose actions do the talking, and he’s done an amazing job at R&V year after year,” Inspector Sam Aberahama said.
“He’s trusted to get on with it, and we’re extremely lucky to have someone with a skill-set like his in our community.
“It’s awesome that yet another of our amazing people in Tairawhiti has been acknowledged with Queen’s Birthday honours and, though Taka is a very humble man, we’ll all enjoy celebrating this award alongside him.”