Volume 49 1940 > Volume 49, No. 195 > Obituary, p 466-467
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- 466

Henare R. H. Balneavis, member of the executive of the Polynesian Society, died suddenly on 13 May, 1940. At the time he was also a very helpful member of the National Maori Celebrations Committee, and was a well-liked and much esteemed personality by Maori and Pakeha alike. The following appreciation of him by Sir Apirana T. Ngata appeared in the August number of the New Zealand Centennial News:

“HAERE RA, E RAU!—So the death-wail rose in many a home, round many a marae in the scattered villages of the Maori, when Henare Te Raumoa Balneavis collapsed at his office door, dying in harness on 13 May last. During many years of service, thirty of which were as private secretary to successive ministers of Native Affairs, he had become to the Maori people a national figure, one which attracted to his official heads confidence in an understanding and sympathetic treatment of Maori problems.

“On his mother's side he inherited a great love of the traditions and history of the Maori and Polynesian, which was intensified by association with the Native Land Courts, with a wide circle of Maori experts, and as Secretary of the Maori Purposes Board and member of the council of the Polynesian Society.

“No man of his time so assiduously studied the Maori human field of both Islands or mastered so well the intricacies of all Maori problems. His knowledge of human and material factors, controlled by a natural unflurried, cautious, and well-balanced judgment, made him invaluable to the Ministers and Administrations he served. On the other hand, he made easy for them those contacts in interviews and on the maraes where the Maori tribes and leaders appraised the merits of British rule through its executives.

“Henare Balneavis was a rangatira in his own right, connected by descent with leading Maori families in the Bay of Plenty, Poverty Bay, and Wairoa districts, but he never obtruded this status in the service of his political chiefs. It was nevertheless acknowledged in his contact with Maori - 467 communities and had its value, when he was detailed for special missions, such as the organization and management of the most important Maori gatherings in many parts of the North Island.

“The corps of private secretaries to Ministers of the Crown will perhaps mourn him most, for many of its members were his lifelong friends, who knew best his work and personal qualities. It would not be invidious to single out for special mention Mr. A. W. Mulligan, the General Secretary to the Centennial Branch, as his closest official associate.

“The sudden death of Henare Balneavis has removed one of the outstanding figures of the first half of the twentieth century.”

I can personally add little to this except the expression of my deep regret at the loss of what I feel was a friendship of no common order. I was at times a little envious of his intimates when they addressed him as Rau or Raumoa, for I sensed the affection as well as admiration which was embodied in that name and filled its liquid sound with music. I always listened with particular attention to the voice of Mr. Balneavis and some of his learned Maori associates when on various occasions, as member of the Maori Purposes Board, of the Council and Executive of the Polynesian Society, or in the field in various places for the purposes of anthropological investigation I had the opportunity of hearing it, for I found his speech deliberate, musical, round, and pure in its pronunciation of the beautiful Maori tongue.

Sir Apirana Ngata speaks of Mr. Balneavis being controlled by an “unflurried, cautious, and well-balanced judgement” I would add unruffled—and I always considered these to be the characteristics of the true rangatira. This spiritual and mental characteristic, too, was reflected in his work, in his neat and orderly arrangement of documents, his readiness in referring to them, his grasp of all facts relevant to the subject under discussion. His personal appearance, too, bore the impress of his ranagtira mentality and spirituality.

I treasure my memory of him, and regret that I shall have no further opportunity to add more to that treasure.