Paki,of Ngati Porou descent, was the eldest of 21 children and grew up in Ruatoria on the East Coast of the North Island. He was introduced to Māori carving while attending Te Aute College in Hawke’s Bay. His mentor there was master carver Pine Taiapa, one of the first graduates from the Rotorua carving school established in 1928. Paki acknowledges Pine as a great mentor and teacher of many master carvers and was personally indebted to his support and teachings.
In the 1960s, Paki was a young school teacher working in Auckland and teaching carving at night. During this time he wrote extensively about carving and the QEII Arts Council sent him to France to present a series of lectures and demonstrate carving. On his return he spent five years carving the meeting house on Whaiora Marae in Otara. Paki then carved and supervised over 10 Marae. Paki’s carvings at the Tane-nui-a-Rangi Marae represent all major tribes and its elaborate carved figures, tukutuku (woven flax panels) and kowhaiwhai (painted rafter patterns) embrace the total cosmic genealogies and mythology of the Māori people.
In the 1980s, Paki lectured at the University of Auckland and was conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Literature in 1991. In 1997, Paki and his wife – well-known weaver Hinemoa - received the 1997 Te Waka Toi Award in recognition of their life-time’s work. Paki was awarded the Queens Service Order in 2000. In 2002, Paki led the team who designed the Toi Iho / Māori Made mark for Creative New Zealand. Paki also led the team which placed the unit standards for Whakairo on the national framework. In 2004 they had the first graduates at Te Wananga O Aotearoa for Bachelors Degree in Whakairo a three year course N.Z.Q.A. approved degree.
He published books on his wharenui, and showed his work in exhibitions nationally and in Italy, Japan, France, United States and Australia.
Paki committed himself to a life long pursuit of knowledge once thought to be lost forever. His learning extended well beyond the techniques of carving to its symbolism and role in transmitting tribal history. In addition to searching literature years of research enabled him to analyse and explain the symbolism of the waka taua (war canoe), wharewhakairo (carved house) and kowhaiwhai.
The Arts Foundation recognised Paki with a prestigious Icon Award in 2005. The Arts Foundation Icon Awards - Whakamana Hiranga, honours senior New Zealand artists for their life-long achievements. The Award is considered the Arts Foundation's highest honour and is limited to a living circle of twenty artists.
The Story of a Master Carver, a major biography on Pakariki, written by Ranginui Walker was published by Raupo/Penguin, in 2008.
Paki died at his home at Harataunga, Kennedy Bay on 29 December 2008 in his 81st year.