VERCOE - HARRY RAY - BAY OF PLENTY - NZ - 1918 --------- 1962
edmondsallan - Hello -After his demobilisation Vercoe returned to farming and became closely involved with the development of tribal lands, the rehabilitation of returned Maori soldiers, and the establishment of education programmes for Maori children with the South Auckland Education Board. The introduction by Apirana Ngata, later native minister, of the Maori lands development scheme in the 1920s led to Vercoe's full-hearted involvement with the schemes at Horohoro and Rotoiti. He was to be joined by family members.
Settling Maori on their ancestral lands now became the keystone of Vercoe's life work. His own tribes, Ngati Pikiao and Ngati Tuara, had hardly any experience of farming their own land. After a long and difficult battle, many thousands of acres of good sheep and cattle land were brought into production by Ngati Pikiao corporations and individual settlers. Vercoe took particular pleasure in the fact that many of the settlers and some of the managers were returned soldiers.
Vercoe found that it was much easier to manage and run a block under one family group than a multiplicity of tribal owners, and established the incorporations on this basis. Some of these lands were originally leased to Pakeha, but on the expiry of the leases were brought back under Maori management. As mortgages were repaid the land reverted to its owners' hands with some cash credits; all blocks were fully stocked. The work of land settlement was accelerated after the Second World War, when thousands of acres were settled by Maori ex-servicemen. Many became winners of the Ahuwhenua Trophy in cattle, sheep and dairy farming.
Vercoe attempted to enlist with the 28th New Zealand (Maori) Battalion during the Second World War, but because he had falsified his age in 1901 he was turned down as being too old. He was appointed captain in the Rotorua Home Guard battalion on 1 August 1941, promoted to temporary major in May 1942, and took command of the Matata Military Camp in February 1943. He relinquished this appointment in August and became involved in the Maori War Effort Organisation. He was posted to the retired list on 28 April 1946 and awarded the New Zealand War Service Medal.
After the war Vercoe became involved with Maori welfare and education. He was determined that what had happened to First World War veterans would not be repeated. When Maori veterans returned home, training programmes were already in place in many trades. Vercoe was also involved with the provision of Maori housing. He became a member of the National Committee of Maori Education and was an adviser to the South Auckland Education Board. He was chairman of the Arawa District Trust Board for three years, chaired the Waiariki District Council of Tribal Executives and was also involved in setting up the New Zealand Maori Council. When Queen Elizabeth II visited Rotorua in 1953 he was in charge of arrangements for the tribal reception. For his services he was appointed an OBE. In 1960 he stood unsuccessfully as New Zealand National Party candidate for Eastern Maori.
After a lifetime of service to his people, Henry Te Reiwhati Vercoe died at Rotorua on 23 March 1962. He was survived by both wives, four sons and two daughters. He lay in state at Houmaitawhiti marae, Rotoiti, and received a full military funeral attended by thousands.
Till we meet again - Regards - edmondsallan