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Education a pathway to liberation

Former Tainui legal advisor Shane Solomon, who served with Sir Robert, says the ‘white elephant’ label for the Waikato-Tainui Endowed College was marked by tribal politics and the untimely death of Sir Robert.

“It needed someone at the helm,” he maintained.

Shane was also there when Sir Robert’s leadership foundered. He was removed from all governance positions within the tribe but continued to represent the Arikinui on the former tribal executive, Tekaumaarua. In-fighting and failed business investments – including the Warriors and non-performing assets in Australia – jeopardised key properties from the tribe’s settlement.  

At the time Sir Robert needed daily dialysis for kidney complications and had been in Waikato Hospital for several weeks before his death. During his final hours, he asked Shane to report back on a hui about the tribe’s financial issues.

“He literally died doing mahi on his death bed,” Shane recalled.

The unfinished business of establishing the Endowed College was also a disappointment but Shane believes its purpose is still relevant. 

“It’s not elite as in exclusive, but excellence rather than mediocrity is what we’re aiming for  because we want to aspire to the highest levels in education. Education is a path to liberation.”