Story: Maynard, Petera Te Hiwirori

Page 1 - Biography

Maynard, Petera Te Hiwirori

1892/1893?–1969

Rongowhakaata; shearer, trade unionist, community leader

This biography was written by John E. Martin and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 5, 2000

Petera Te Hiwirori (Hiwi) Maynard was born, probably in 1892 or 1893, at Manutuke, in the Gisborne area, the son of Wiremu Hatea Maynard and his wife, Pehi Te Wiwini, both of Rongowhakaata. His father was a general labourer. Hiwi was educated at the local primary school and Waerenga-a-hika College. On leaving the college he worked on farms, taking up shearing during the First World War and then leading a shearing gang.

Hiwi Maynard married Te Ataarangi Heperi of Ngai Tahu at Takapau, perhaps about 1913; they had four daughters and three sons, one of whom died in infancy. Hiwi gained a place in local sporting history by being a member of the Poverty Bay rugby team that defeated Auckland 17–14 in 1926. He continued to represent Poverty Bay for some years and maintained close ties with rugby when his playing days were over. Te Ata Maynard died of tuberculosis in 1931 and Hiwi married Reremoana Te Orihau Watson at Manutuke on 20 February 1936; they had six daughters and six sons.

From about 1912 Hiwi Maynard was involved with rural unionism. In 1925 he was appointed as the New Zealand Workers’ Union’s executive councillor for the Gisborne district, and he became a key link between the union and Poverty Bay Maori. He attended his first union annual conference in 1927, when he spoke against employers reneging on shearing-gang contracts. As a member of a deputation to the minister of labour concerning shearing accommodation, he argued that conditions were particularly bad in Poverty Bay because many of the shearers were Maori. This issue was to remain Maynard’s prime concern, he himself having been directed by one runholder to wash in and drink from the creek where the stock drank. As he noted, ‘Tory squatter bosses have been in the habit of saying that any accommodation is good enough’ for Maori.

In 1932–33 Poverty Bay shearers led by Maynard were in the forefront of a struggle for the union rate. When they refused to take on contracts below this rate, Pakeha shearers came into the area and did the work instead; at the subsequent union conference this was noted as ‘the most dastardly action ever committed by European workers’.

When on a union deputation to the new Labour government in 1936, Maynard assured cabinet ministers Bob Semple, Dan Sullivan and Tim Armstrong of the support of the Maori people. Semple responded by saying that Maori would be treated the same as Pakeha: ‘the Maoris are the first citizens of New Zealand … We have pinched their country anyhow, and we will see that they are treated decently’. Because of the Labour Party’s lack of Maori organisers, Workers’ Union officials were a key point of party contact with Maori. Maynard thus gained a reputation as a guide for local Maori, not only in industrial matters but also in politics. During the election campaign of 1957 he held political meetings in the district on Sundays, preceded by a short church service.

In 1939, as the Workers’ Union expanded under compulsory unionism to become one of the largest unions in the country, Maynard became a Gisborne organiser and was involved in developing an agreement covering workers on native land development schemes. In 1941 the branch secretary reported that ‘Hiwi has been an absolute tower of strength to our Branch and his work in the A. and P. field has been a revelation of energy and understanding’. At that time he was elected as Maori representative on the union’s management committee, a position he was to hold until 1955.

Hiwi Maynard remained as organiser and delegate for more than two decades. In 1954 he took over as Gisborne branch secretary when the incumbent was sacked for embezzlement. In 1962, having become ineligible by age for re-election as secretary, Maynard decided the time had come for him to ‘lay down the cudgels’. He continued as organiser for a further year, but ill health forced his retirement after the shearing season of 1963. He was made a life member of the union and given six months’ retiring leave on pay.

Maynard was greatly interested in issues associated with Maori land. He served on the Tairawhiti District Maori Council, took an active part in Anglican affairs in Manutuke, and chaired several tribal and marae committees. He was appointed a justice of the peace, and was generally considered to have been a leading member of the district Maori community for many years. He died at Gisborne on 22 June 1969, survived by his second wife and children.