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Tributes roll in for Sir Peter Tapsell

18:26 Sun Apr 8 2012

Political parties are paying tribute to New Zealand's first Maori parliamentary speaker, Sir Peter Tapsell, who died on Thursday.

Sir Peter, who held the position from 1993 to 1996, died in his sleep at his farm in Ruatoria in eastern Bay of Plenty. He was 82.

Acting Prime Minister Bill English said Sir Peter's "considered and dignified manner" was a positive influence on a tense parliament preparing for the first MMP election.

"He was respected by MPs across the political spectrum for his independent, thoughtful and direct style," Mr English said.

"Sir Peter will be remembered for his wide and varied contributions to New Zealand, which extended well beyond politics."

Labour's spokesman for Maori affairs, Parekura Horomia, said Sir Peter served Eastern Maori with great mana for a number of years and was fondly remembered by Labour MPs past and present.

"Sir Peter was staunch Te Arawa and an advocate for Maori affairs," Mr Horomia said.

Sir Peter's body will be in Maketu from Saturday and his funeral will be held on Tuesday at Whakaue Marae. He will be buried at Wharekahu Cemetery.

Sir Peter was raised in Rotorua and was an orthopaedic surgeon before he entered parliament in 1981 as the Eastern Maori MP.

He served as minister in the portfolios of internal affairs, arts, police, civil defence, science, forestry and defence.

He then served as speaker of the House.

In 1996 Sir Peter lost his seat to New Zealand First's Tuariki Delamere.

Since retiring, he became patron of Monarchy New Zealand, assisted with several medical charities, and in 1997 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Waikato.