Ngāti Maniapoto celebrates iwi & hapū contributions

By Regan Paranihi
Rangituataka supreme award winner Rore Stafford.  Photo/File

Ngāti Maniapoto have celebrated those who have contributed to the iwi and hapū at their inaugural awards event in Te Nehenehenui.

The unique event embodies the principles within the kawenata (covenant) signed by rangatira in 1904. 

Paramount chief of the Mōkau district, Te Rangituataka Tākerei, gathered leaders, elders and children 115 years ago to discuss a path forward for the tribe.

Maniapoto Māori trust board deputy chair, Keith Ikin (Ngāti Maniapoto) says, "The spirit of that gathering is still here from when our ancestors came here. This is the place they gathered to find a way forward for us."

The covenant strived to unify the tribe and encourage them to work collaboratively, an idea that has well and truly come to fruition.

"I think back to our ancestors, the thought came from that century to meet here in this district as they really wanted the tribe to come together as one. So on that, we decided to hold this gathering here," Ikin says.

There were 25 winners across five main categories, which were aroha, ture, whakapono, Māoritanga and kotahitanga.

Dede Downs (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) was amongst the 25 who won and, although she comes from Ngāti Tūwharetoa, she has devoted 31 years of her life to her community in Ngāti Maniapoto.

"Gathering young parents, young coaches, students and giving them the tools to get out there and run sports and encourage and enthuse people to get into sport and get into activity recreation," she says.

Hilary Karaitiana was also recognised for her work with rangatahi in the King Country community. The award recognises the hard work she and her team do for their community.

"The most rewarding part is just building up young people so that they see the potential they have in themselves, and just seeing them do really well," Karaitiana says.

The top award of the night, the Rangituataka Supreme Award, was presented to Rore Stafford. Last year, he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his outstanding contribution to his tribe.

"This is a gift of love, a gift from our ancestors who signed the kawenata here. They are this award, and today it was awarded to me, however, it is for all of Maniapoto," Stafford says.

240 names were nominated for the awards, and 100 of those were shortlisted to 50 finalists by a dedicated judging panel. The tribe hopes to continue this initiative for many more years.