Patsy Peri: Māori Warden

That’s what I love about being a Māori warden. I’m not the Chief. We work as a team. We’re here to awhi the people. That’s our job.

A few years ago I was hit by a Police car walking across the road in Kaikohe. This cop did a u-turn in front of me and wiped me clean off my feet. I remember going down and all I could hear was my husband, swearing his head off. He was sitting in the car opposite and saw the the whole thing. The ambulance came to take me to hospital but I said ‘No, take me home. My cure is my family.’

We ended up going to court over it. This lawyer tried to make me look like a fool. He tried to say the accident was my fault. He called my husband as a witness and asked him what I was wearing, and my husband goes ‘well, obviously she was wearing clothes!’

Not long after that, the victim support lady came to visit me. We got talking and she asked me if I’d consider coming back to the Māori Wardens. I’d been a warden before, but I left when Jimmy died. He was my only biological child. He was doing milk deliveries from Auckland to Warkworth and had a heart attack. He was only 39. The following year, his eldest, my first moko, died of cancer. She had Leio-myo-sarcoma.

He’s been gone 15 years and she’s been gone 14.

But you know, I’m a stubborn sort of person. I never let anything pull me down. If there’s a problem I address it. And I don’t address it by telephoning or writing a letter. I go straight and talk to whoever it is, kānohi ki te kānohi. 

My Dad was stubborn too. He was 84 and still working at the freezing works. His bosses had no idea he was that old. When they found out, they said ‘sorry you’ll have to finish’. To get over his boredom Dad used to mow the lawns. He’d get out the rotary hoe and do these two big paddocks. Rain, hail or sunshine. Well, one day he caught a chill doing the lawns. He got sick and never recovered.

Jimmy would be 54 if he was alive today. When we lost him, I didn’t think I’d get through it. But it’s made me who I am. Made me stronger. It makes me want to awhi others. Doesn’t matter who they are. Little ones, older ones, everybody. People say ‘look at you, you’re a nana to everyone!’  That’s what I love about being a Māori warden. I’m not the Chief. We work as a team. We’re here to awhi the people. That’s our job.

Patsy Peri, Te Māhurehure me Ngāpuhi