A photo of Jim Rimene taken in 2010. PHOTO/FILE
Wairarapa has lost a kaumatua who was a motivating force in laying the foundations for Rangitane O Wairarapa, and laying down a path for the community’s youth of today to travel.
James Rimene, known as Jim or ‘Uncle Jim’, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his whanau on Saturday at the age of 86.
He had been in poor health for the past 12 months.
Mr Rimene, a Rangitane O Wairarapa and Ngati Hamua kaumatua, was well-known for his work as a founding member of Rangitane O Wairarapa since 1976, a volunteer and board member of Rangitane.
Rangitane Tu Mai Ra Trust chair Mavis Mullins and past Masterton Mayor Bob Francis described Mr Rimene as a ‘wise man who offered constructive advice’, but also had a commitment for Rangitane and the youth of today.
As a strong representative for Maori, he sat on many boards, and worked as kaumatua with the Youth Court.
He was recognised for his work with youths when he received the New Zealand Order of Merit award in 2007.
Mr Rimene will be well-remembered for his single term on the then Masterton Borough Council after being elected as a councillor in 1986.
He was one of two Maori to be elected in the Masterton borough and county between 1877 and 1989.
Mr Rimene and his eight brothers were raised by their grandmother in Te Ore Ore, published records show.
They grew up speaking Maori as their grandmother could not speak English.
Mr Rimene left school at a young age and went to work on farms and woolsheds, but then developed a passion to help others.
He was a loving father of five children, grandfather of 10 grandchildren, 33 great grandchildren, and 14 great great grandchildren.
He outlived his late wife, Margaret Rimene.
Bob Francis said the relationship between Mr Rimene and the council remained strong after his stint as councillor.
“He was a very good councillor, and it was great that the people of our district selected him to come onto council,” Mr Francis said.
The council continued to turn to Mr Rimene for advice even after he left, he said.
Mr Francis said Mr Rimene had left behind one important legacy.
“One of the legacies that he has left is that Rangitane now has a strong base and I think he has to take a lot of credit for that.”
The pair had a good personal relationship which Mr Francis valued.
“He was a wise man, he will certainly be missed.”
Rangitane Tu Mai Ra Trust chair Mavis Mullins has known ‘Uncle’ Jim for many years, but recently worked with him through treaty negotiations.
“Wise comments, gentle growlings and always with a deep commitment for the full restoration of the Rangitane identity,” she said.
“I am grateful for his support as we navigated difficult issues and sometimes came to compromises that he struggled with, but ultimately allowed us to complete.”
Rangitane trustee Jason Kerehi said Mr Rimene’s death was a loss to the community but he left behind many achievements.
Mr Kerehi credited Mr Rimene as being one the main figures in “making Rangitane prominent again”.
“I think he was a very significant person from Wairarapa, an incredibly strong leader for his iwi and for his people,” Mr Kerehi said.
He was also well known throughout the country, amongst his peers, other iwi leaders and kaumatua.
“He’s going to be incredibly missed but his legacy is amazing.”
Mr Rimene will lie at Te Ore Ore Marae until the tangihanga on Tuesday.