Posted by John Cole on Jun 29, 2022
This evening our rotary club is awarding a Paul Harris Fellow recognition to Sir John Clarke, an outstanding New Zealander, and a member of our community.
Sir John was born in Te Araroa on the East Coast, one of 12 children in the family. His father was Ngā Puhi and his mother Ngati Porou.
 
He attended the local primary school and then Te Araroa District High school. after gaining School Certificate he went to St Stephen’s school in Auckland.  He then continued his studies at Auckland Teachers’ College, where he was Student President. On graduating, he taught at Ahipara, Northland and Te Teko in the Bay of Plenty, before moving to Wellington and teaching at Tui Glen in Stokes Valley.  That is where Sir John met and married Kathy who was teaching at Kamahi School in the Valley.
 
A few years later he was Deputy Principal at Epuni primary school.  From there he was approached to teach at Wainuiomata College where Sir John set up the teaching of Māori language.  This was the first time the Māori language was taught at a public school.  It grew from a one teacher department to being bigger than the French department.  Seven years and three children later, he went as Senior Master to Aotea college in its first year of opening.  After only two years he was asked to apply for the Principal’s position at Ngata College in Ruatoria on the East Coast.  During the 7 years there the academic results were raised, and the aspirations of the students were lifted so that they started attending university on leaving school instead of aiming solely for the armed services or straight into employment.
 
In 1986, Sir John was appointed as Principal of Wellington High School and the Community Institute.  He was there for two years and then his career broadened.  He has worked in a large range of environments in the public sector including education, justice, health, human rights, crown law, social welfare, environment, and heritage.  He's played a major role in Crown Māori Relations and has been the Principal Cultural Advisor to all Ministers of Treaty settlements for more than 20 years, holding numerous senior management positions in the public sector including Chief Executive of the Ministry of Māori Affairs, group manager of the Department of Justice and served as Race Relations Conciliator and Human Rights Commissioner for two terms.  He has conducted eight major inquiries as a Member of the Waitangi Tribunal and is currently chair of the Māori Heritage Council.   He is also principal advisor to several foundations and organisations as well as a trustee of several Māori trusts.
 
Sir John has received several awards over the last thirty plus years and they include:
  • 1990 he was awarded the NZ Commemoration Medal
  • 2011 was appointed a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit
  • 2018 he was elevated to Knight Companion of the NZ Order of Merit
In summary Sir John has made an outstanding contribution to the betterment of New Zealand.  Not bad for a boy from a family of 12 from the East Coast.
 
I would like to invite Sir John to come forward to receive Paul Harris Fellow in recognition from Past Rotary International President, Bill Boyd.  Would Lady Kathy please come forward with Sir John.
Congratulations Sir John on your richly deserved recognition.
 
And that ladies and gentleman concludes the formal section of tonight’s programme. To all of you here tonight, thank you for being here to celebrate 60 years of Rotary doing good in the Eastern Hutt Valley, and thank you for the contributions each of you have made to that work, thank you for the friendships forged through this Club, and thank you for the enduring good you do for the Eastern Hutt community.
 
Your charter President was a guy by the name of Max Green, and so with a name like Green, and with the All Blacks playing Ireland this weekend, I thought it appropriate that we should end tonight’s formal part of the programme with an old Irish blessing. And I expect many of you may well know this….….
 
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
 
Farewell and safe travels home.
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