A Man for All Seasons: Tāmaki College Kaumātua, Te Wera Nopera/Wally Noble

Te Wera Nopera, or Wally Noble as we know him, hails from the village of Pamapuria, some 10km south of Kaitaia. Like some of our Tamaki College students, he was raised by his beloved Nanas. Wally’s Nanas were a great inspiration to him, and it was them who taught him from an early age about the importance of hard work. Like everyone else from the surrounding area, Wally attended Pamapuria School and, after Standard 6, he progressed on to Kaitaia College for his secondary education.

After Wally left Kaitaia College, he had the wonderful opportunity to join the Māori Affairs Trade Training Scheme, which was administered by the former Department of Māori Affairs from 1959 until it ended in the mid-1980’s. The scheme saw thousands of Māori successfully study and graduate with formal trade training and qualifications and go on to have very successful careers in trade and industry.

At the beginning of the scheme, the only available trade was carpentry, which Wally took up. One of the scheme’s advantages was that it specifically targeted boys from country areas like that where Wally was from. As part of his training, Wally and the boys received what Te Ao Hou Magazine described as ‘intensive theoretical and practical instruction’ in their trade. After the course ended, the boys were placed with employers and completed the remainder of their apprenticeships in the normal way. While they studied, the boys stayed in hostels, mostly run by church organisations.

When speaking to students here at school, Wally has said many times that taking the opportunity to learn a trade has set him up for his whole life. He has managed to do all manner of things: He has worked as part of a group of builders, and he has been in business for himself building houses and commercial buildings. Such is his combination of talent and leadership skills, that he not only had the chance to work on some of the country’s biggest projects – some of which were part of the Muldoon government’s flagship Think Big scheme – but he was a foreman on those jobs and so had responsibility for directing and leading large groups of men. A couple of examples of these jobs were the Marsden Point Oil Refinery near Whangarei, and NZ Steel’s state of the art Steel Mill at Glenbrook. Wally’s inspirational story has had a real impact on a large number of Tamaki students.

As part of that story, Wally tells of how he was scanning through the newspaper one day and saw an advertisement seeking a tradesman to build a marae at Tamaki College which he jumped at. A chance to use his skills as a builder as well as to be part of constructing a marae would be a perfect fit, he thought. And so, Te Poho o Tamaki came into being. It is hard to believe, I am sure Wally would say, that that was 25 years ago.

Once the marae was complete, Wally stayed on as an assistant to the Tamaki College caretaker, Cyril Allsopp, and took over as caretaker when Cyril retired.

Wally has been a staunch supporter of Tamaki College, its staff and students, for all these years. He is universally loved and admired by members of our community, and is selfless in his assistance to everyone. He has made wonderful hangi, played a major part in keeping the school looking as good as it does, used his formidable array of skills to fix problems of every kind, driven people around, supported innumerable fundraisers, and been a friend to many. Fittingly, he is also Kaumatua of Te Poho o Tamaki, the marae that he, himself, was such a major part of constructing.

While Wally is still a true son of Pamapuria, and Te Paatu Marae, it is also true that he is equally beloved of Tamaki College, the Glen Innes community, and Te Poho o Tamaki.