Manahi Nitama (Nahi) Paewai

1920 - 1990

Manahi Paewai was born at Dannevirke, the son of Nireaha Paewai. He was educated at Dannevirke High School and theUniversity of Otago where he graduated with M.B., Ch.B. In 1947 he went to Kaikohe and opened a medical practice and from 1947-1961 was a divisional surgeon of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade at Kaikohe. He was affectionately known as ‘Doc’. Paewai served for 18 years on the Kaikohe Borough Council. In 1949 he married Hineapa Meha from Hawkes Bay and had eight children. From 1960-62 he was member of the Northland special school committee for intellectually handicapped children. Paewai was also a member of the Kaikohe Borough Council from 1962. Paewai was a keen advocate for helping people break the cycle of debt. In 1960 he co-founded the Kaikohe Advice and Guidance Society, a Budget Counselling Scheme which later spread throughout New Zealand. The Department of Māori Affairs drew upon many of their principles for their welfare policy. He was a member of many organisations in the community. In 1966 he was awarded the Order of St John for recognition of 14 years of service as divisional surgeon for the St John’s Ambulance Brigade. He also played an active role in Rotary, Intellectually Handicapped Society and Scouting Association. He was on the Board of Governors of Northern College and a member of the Church College of New Zealand’s Advisory Committee. He received the O.B.E. in the 1967 New Year Honours List and was presented with the Award of Merit for his work as a Scout Area Chaplain. In 1977 he was elected Mayor of Kaikohe. His wife Hineapa maintains that “the highlight of their lives was serving an 18 months mission in South East Asia in 1983 in Singapore, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.” They were both very active in their church work.

Biographical sources

  • Correspondence and phone conversation with Hineapa Paewai, 21 June and 3 July 1998.
  • Correspondence from Paewai’s half-brother, Manahi Paewai, 24 Nov. 1992.
  • Te Ao Hou 52 (1965): 5-7.
  • "New Year Honour." Te Ao Hou 58 (1967): 60.


  • "Māori Education Foundation: The Critic." Northland 20 (1962): 18-19.
  • This article is part of a debate about the Māori Education Foundation with Paewai writing a critique of the Foundation and Koro Dewes writing a defence. Paewai questions funding that takes on the nature of a ‘hand-out’ to one group in society and maintains that Māori parents should take responsibility for providing finances for their children’s education.
  • "The Māori and Adult Education." WEA Review 2.2 (Oct 1969): 42-43.
  • Paewai comments on D. G. Ball’s article ‘The Māori and Adult Education" (in WEA Review 2.1 (July 1969): 4-11), and states "I believe the more Māoris and Europeans can associate at work, socially, in Church and politically the sooner the status of the Māori would rise. But I think it is going to be hard to get any of the Māori leaders, who are in much better position than I, to air such a view on a broad basis.’


  • Dansey, Harry. "Dr M. N. Paewai: A Leader with High Ideals And Astonishing Energy." Te Ao Hou 52 (1965): 5-7.
  • "Doc’s Legacy of Service." Church Ensign January 1998. No further details.
  • Taylor, C. R. H. A Bibliography of Publications on the New Zealand Māori and the Moriori of the Chatham Islands. Oxford: Clarendon Press, Oxford UP, 1972. 47.