Town to swell for Horomia tangi
The population of Tolaga Bay on the east coast is expected to treble over the next four days for the tangi of Labour MP Parekura Horomia.
Politicians from all eight parties are attending – a mark of the wide respect he enjoyed. Community organisers say Saturday's funeral is likely to be the biggest ever held in the town.
Tolaga Bay is where Mr Horomia was born, raised and adored by the community – a small East Coast town of fewer than 1000 people.
By tomorrow that number will swell, all bound for one place, to pay respect to one man – a politician who entered Parliament with the future of Maori in mind.
The marae closest to Mr Horomia's heart, Hinemaurea, is too small for his tangi. But his family held a small, private service there this morning.
Tomorrow almost the entire Labour caucus and past MPs will arrive in the Bay, having chartered a special flight. And it's not just Mr Horomia's colleagues making the trip. MPs from every party will attend his tangi.
"My view of Parekura Horomia is that he's one of the genuine MPs who's liked on all sides of the House and by all political parties," says Prime Minister John Key. "He's a real gentle giant and I think we'll miss him."
His electorate, too, will miss him. A by-election will be held within two-and-half months for the Ikaroa-Rawhiti seat, which stretches the length of the east coast, from Gisborne to Upper Hutt.
A successor being tipped is Meka Whaitiri, the chief executive of Ngati Kahungunu. It's one of three Maori seats held by Labour.
Derek Fox, who lost to Mr Horomia – his cousin and friend – in two elections, won't be running. He says Mr Horomia will be hard to replace.
"He's like a comfortable pair of old shoes," says Mr Fox. "They sort of know him and he drifts in and drifts out."
And they're big shoes to fill. But right now the focus is on Mr Horomia, his whanau and saying goodbye.