Inez Haereata Kingi, Māori health campaigner, dies aged 91

Source: Radio New Zealand

The woman widely regarded as 'Rotorua's queen of Māori health', Inez Haereata Kingi, has died, aged 91.

  Inez Haereata Kingi, pictured with Hamilton Kingi (left) and then Governor-General Sir Anand Santyanand (right) receiving a Companion of the Queen's Service Order for services to the community in 2010.

Kingi was surrounded by her whānau when she died peacefully on Wednesday at Ōhinemutu.

She was a champion for children's health, responsible for setting up several Māori health services.

Born in the lakeside village of Ōhinemutu, Kingi initially trained as a school dental nurse and was active in several Māori health and women's leagues.

For years she campaigned for the Tūnohopū health centre, which opened in 1986 - a radical concept that saw Māori health practices and western medicine operate side-by-side.

It was built on the work of Women's Health League founder, nurse Robina Cameron.

Kingi told RNZ at its opening in 1986 that bringing Cameron's vision to life was a dream come true.

"When a person passes on you've worked with and known for many years and you know she was a very hard task master like Nurse Cameron, at the time of her passing, we couldn't think what was suitable for something to perpetuate her memory."

Kingi said the health centre was what Cameron envisioned by keeping Māori on the marae.

She said all members helped to contribute to funding the centre.

"We started a fund of our own, we taxed each member who came to the monthly meetings, $2 a meeting and we started off this little putea Nurse Cameron Memorial Fund."

In the 90s - noticing that many newly unemployed were turning to alcohol - she played a major role in creating the addiction treatment service, Te Utuhina Manaakitanga Trust.

In 1997 she helped Māori with their dental needs by setting up Hei Oranga Niho mo te Iwi Māori. Dental students in their fifth year of study were able to get hands-on experience by giving free dental services to the community.

Kingi was recognised with the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2000 for her contribution to health and well-being of Māori.

She also received a Queen's Service Order for her ongoing services and commitment to the Women's Health League.

She was taken back to Ōhinemutu on Thursday and on Saturday will be buried alongside her late husband, Te Arawa kaumatua Pihopa Kingi, at Kauae Cemetery.