23 February 2018
It is with great sadness that the Malaghan Institute learns of Hepa Paewai's passing on the 22nd of February, 2018.
A former Maori All Black and Hawke's Bay Magpies 1960s Ranfurly Shield era hero, Hepa was not only a New Zealand hero, but a champion for multiple sclerosis research. Hepa has played a vital role in the Great New Zealand Trek, a charity that has been traversing the length of the country, raising funds and awareness for multiple sclerosis. To date, the Trek has raised over $280,000 towards the multiple sclerosis programme at the Malaghan Institute, run by Professor Anne La Flamme. Prof La Flamme also takes part in the Trek each year, and has had the chance to get to know Hepa well during this time. In her words:
"It is hard to imagine the Great New Zealand Trek without Hepa Paewai - his dedication, his commitment, and the sheer force of his personality. He has been an essential force behind the GNZT trek for over a decade. Running the GNZT is not an easy task and has demanded tremendous commitment, but it is thanks to him, his partner Kitty, the GNZT trustees, and all of the exceptional volunteers over the years that the GNZT has been so successful in bettering the lives of people with multiple sclerosis by supporting greater awareness of the disease throughout NZ and research into a cure.
On a personal note, my fondest memories of Hepa are from each night’s debrief and overview of the next day’s trail. Waiting with a mixture of excitement and dread to hear Hepa’s description of the trail and wondering how many “Hepa hills” there would be. I’m sure if the GNZT had been in Nepal, he would have found a way to include Everest as a “Hepa hill” – just for the view. And we would all follow as he led us to the top.
He will be greatly missed and always remembered for his vitality, generosity, and strength of character."
Our condolences go out towards Hepa's partner Kitty and family. He will be missed.