Story: Parore, Louis Wellington

Page 1 - Biography

Parore, Louis Wellington

1888–1953

Nga Puhi and Te Roroa leader, interpreter, land court agent

This biography was written by Garry Hooker and Robert Parore and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 4, 1998

Louis Wellington Parore was born at Te Houhanga marae, Dargaville, on 26 December 1888. According to tradition, he was the first of his people born in a European-style house and was known to his family as Te Ruma (the room), although he was more generally known as Lou Parore. His father, Pouaka Parore, was of the leading families of Nga Puhi and Te Roroa, his especial hapu being Te Kuihi of Kaihu and Te Parawhau of Whangarei and Northern Wairoa. His mother, Makerita Pirihi (Marguerite Preece), was of Te Patuharakeke hapu of Whangarei; the name Wellington commemorated one of her relatives.

The eldest child of a father who spoke only Maori and a bilingual mother, Parore was nourished by the warm security of marae life and by his education: initially attending the local primary school, he went on to secure a scholarship to Auckland Grammar School, which he attended in 1904–5. After his return to Dargaville he became a motor mechanic, but also accompanied his father, the leading chief of Dargaville and an acknowledged expert on tribal lore, to sittings of the Native Land Court.

On 2 April 1910 Parore married Emma Isabel Hart at Dargaville; they were to have at least two sons and a daughter. Following Emma's death on 20 April 1923 Parore moved to Devonport, Auckland. There on 15 November 1924 he married Marjorie Grace Sisson; they were to have at least four daughters and a son. Parore, his wife and mother-in-law then moved to Dargaville, living at Te Houhanga marae with his parents until their home adjacent to the marae was built.

Lou Parore's leadership among Tai Tokerau Maori was based on his determined pursuit of claims for the return of tribal lands. Concerned that the intricacies of land laws were so little understood by Maori people, in 1912 he applied to become a Maori interpreter. He was licensed as an interpreter, first grade and entitled to act as agent for clients before the Native Land Court.

In 1929 Parore participated in a celebrated case before the Native Land Court in which Nga Puhi sought acknowledgement of customary Maori ownership of Lake Omapere. The Crown asserted that native custom failed to recognise ownership of beds of lakes, that Maori were confined to 'use rights' of fishing and navigation of lakes, and that the Treaty of Waitangi never contemplated private ownership of navigable waters. Parore assisted E. C. Blomfield as advocate for Nga Puhi. He based his case on the protection of Maori customary rights under the Treaty of Waitangi, 'a sacred compact between the British Nation and the Maori Nation'. By citing numerous acts of Parliament in support of his contention that the Crown had generally acknowledged Maori customary rights to lakes and their beds, he also demonstrated more than a slight acquaintance with statute law.

Judge F. O. Acheson's decision upheld Parore's argument and went on to find that such rights applied to the whole surface of New Zealand, whether covered by water or not. Acheson also found that the treaty contemplated Crown protection of the entire territory of Nga Puhi, including Lake Omapere. Parore later chaired tribal hui at which kaitiaki (guardians) of the lake were nominated and a unanimous decision – almost unheard of among Nga Puhi – determined that the lake was a taonga (treasure) of all Nga Puhi.

The case was widely discussed in Maori newspapers. Parore's mana increased, and throughout the 1930s streams of Maori came to discuss land issues in the office he had built outside his Dargaville home. There, typing by candlelight and keeping in touch through telegrams, Parore drafted his 1934 petition to Parliament protesting against the taking, without compensation, of Maori land for railways, and seeking no distinction in the justice extended to Pakeha and Maori.

Parore was keen to see Maori established in farming. In 1933, on behalf of his father, he offered two blocks of 50 acres to the government under the Small Farms Scheme. The offer was declined, partly because the land was regarded as unsuitable for economic development. Parore also donated 71 acres of land for the support of the Anglican Maori bishopric.

In 1935 Parore acted as master of ceremonies during the visit to Whangarei by the governor general, Viscount Galway. He also made his only foray into politics in that year's general election, unsuccessfully contesting Northern Maori on behalf of the Democrat Party.

Parore now took an interest in Te Roroa's 50-year-old claim for the return of two sacred places, wrongly seized by the Crown, at Maunganui Bluff. Their loss had caused great pain to Te Roroa. After petitioning Parliament to authorise the Native Land Court to investigate the matter, Parore argued the case for their return before the court in 1939. He produced extensive evidence that Maori customary title to the reserves had never been extinguished, citing extensive Maori burials in one of the reserves, recent continuing Maori occupation, and official Crown recognition of both reserves some 30 years after they supposedly had been sold.

Although Judge Acheson's report was strongly in favour of Te Roroa's claim, it was not supported by Chief Judge G. P. Shepherd, who was presumably aware that the reserves were then in private ownership. In objecting that Shepherd was 'wrong in fact and law', Parore offered to quote instances where the Crown had made similar mistakes. His offer was not taken up and he unsuccessfully petitioned Parliament in 1943, asking for relief in regard to the reserves, and in 1944 for a royal commission into the issue. Te Roroa ultimately made a successful claim for these reserves before the Waitangi Tribunal in 1990.

By 1942 Ngati Whatua had reached a crucial point in their long battle for compensation for land at Orakei, in Auckland. Parore appeared on their behalf in the Native Land Court and argued that compensation could not be determined without recognising that Maori buildings, as part of an ancestral papakainga (village), had a cultural and emotional value not provided for under the Valuation of Land Act 1925. In upholding Parore's submissions and awarding compensation significantly above the valuer general's figures, Judge Acheson stressed that the ' "King's Conscience" should be considered as well as the "King's Purse" '.

Parore was involved in many other aspects of Maori life. In 1914 he took part in the building of the meeting house Rahiri at Te Houhanga marae. In 1927 he was a foundation member (and two years later a vice president) of Te Akarana Maori Association, where he became acquainted with the ethnologist George Graham, Te Puea Herangi and others. He was involved in inviting northern chiefs to the 1929 opening of the Auckland War Memorial Museum building, at which he acted as official interpreter. As the association's representative on the Waipoua Preservation Committee, formed to advocate the protection of Waipoua Forest from milling, in 1947 he petitioned Parliament, asking 'That the song of the axe and saw in Waipoua Forest be stopped at once'; the area was made a forest sanctuary in 1952. Following the resignation of his friend Apirana Ngata from cabinet in 1934, he was deputed to take him a testimonial from the association. He was at one time a member of the Maori Advisory Board of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union, and was active in rugby in Northland.

Tall and of athletic build, Louis Parore had natural charm, humour and an affable manner. For 20 years he participated in most of the important northern Maori claims against the Crown and became their leading advocate. Despite his lack of formal legal training, he possessed a capacious and logical mind, coupled with a deep knowledge of Maoritanga, treaty history and land law. He demonstrated his leadership qualities by spending his life in the service of his people. Parore died at Auckland on 3 March 1953 survived by his wife, Marjorie, and eight children. He is buried among his whanau at Te Wharau, Ounuwhao, north of Dargaville.